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  • Kirk Hartley

New Study on Drywall and Asbestos, and New Spin

Today, knowledge of new information can spread quickly, if – repeat, if –  procedures are in place to capture the information. Here’s an example from asbestos.

On November 26, 2014, a new study on asbestos fibers and drywalling went online at the Society for Risk Analysis. It is:  Boelter et al, Comparative Risks of Cancer from Drywall Finishing Based on Stochastic Modeling of Cumulative Exposures to Respirable Dusts and Chrysotile Asbestos Fibers, Risk Anal. 2014 Nov 26. doi: 10.1111/risa.12297. [Epub ahead of print]. Meanwhile, on November 28, 2014, Surviving Mesothelioma ran an article reporting on and spinning the new study.


The abstract states:

Abstract Sanding joint compounds is a dusty activity and exposures are not well characterized. Until the mid 1970s, asbestos-containing joint compounds were used by some people such that sanding could emit dust and asbestos fibers. We estimated the distribution of 8-h TWA concentrations and cumulative exposures to respirable dusts and chrysotile asbestos fibers for four worker groups: (1) drywall specialists, (2) generalists, (3) tradespersons who are bystanders to drywall finishing, and (4) do-it-yourselfers (DIYers). Data collected through a survey of experienced contractors, direct field observations, and literature were used to develop prototypical exposure scenarios for each worker group. To these exposure scenarios, we applied a previously developed semi-empirical mathematical model that predicts area as well as personal breathing zone respirable dust concentrations. An empirical factor was used to estimate chrysotile fiber concentrations from respirable dust concentrations. On a task basis, we found mean 8-h TWA concentrations of respirable dust and chrysotile fibers are numerically highest for specialists, followed by generalists, DIYers, and bystander tradespersons; these concentrations are estimated to be in excess of the respective current but not historical Threshold Limit Values. Due to differences in frequency of activities, annual cumulative exposures are highest for specialists, followed by generalists, bystander tradespersons, and DIYers. Cumulative exposure estimates for chrysotile fibers from drywall finishing are expected to result in few, if any, mesothelioma or excess lung cancer deaths according to recently published risk assessments. Given the dustiness of drywall finishing, we recommend diligence in the use of readily available source controls. © 2014 Society for Risk Analysis.

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