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Asbestos in Stucco

Asbestos in Stucco and Other Building Materials

Stucco is a form of plaster or mortar that has been in use for centuries in order to coat building walls and ceilings. Its purpose is largely decorative. Traditionally made from a mixture of lime, sand, and water, builders began adding additional substances, such as portland cement, gypsum and asbestos in the late 19th century. These additional ingredients created a very hard and durable surface that was also versatile and could be decorated in a number of ways.

Builders and designers began using asbestos-containing stucco in the 1920s as part of a nationwide drive towards increasing the fire resistance of buildings. While most commercial uses of asbestos were phased out during the 1980s and "new uses" of asbestos are prohibited in the U.S., asbestos-containing stucco is still present in thousands of older structures across the country.

Hazards Associated with Stucco Products

Asbestos-containing stucco that is intact is generally safe; however, in many cases the material can become brittle and be easily broken. In this state the material becomes “friable”, meaning that it can crumble at a touch, releasing large numbers of microscopic asbestos fibers into the air.

The most common health consequence of long-term asbestos exposure is a fibrosis-like disease known as asbestosis. Less common but more serious is malignant mesothelioma, a cancer of the mesothelial lining that carries a very high mortality rate. Both of these disorders are tightly correlated with the inhalation of asbestos fibers.


Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos (New York: Touchstone, 2003)

N/A. "Stucco."

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