Until the 1980s, asbestos was a cheap and popular component of building materials such as joint compound, which was used to level and seal off wall and ceiling joints and seams. Mixing this joint compound, which often came in dry form, released asbestos fibers into the air that could be inhaled. Dust could also be created as a painter sanded down the dried compound in order to achieve an even finish. Cleaning up and hauling away crushed bags of powder and sweeping away the waste and debris after these projects resulted in additional exposures.
Painters who worked in shipyards alongside millwrights may have been exposed to asbestos while they removed and replaced various components of pumps, including gaskets and packing. During shutdowns, turnarounds or remodels of large industrial facilities, painters could be required to work around contractors who were insulating steam lines, boilers or other pieces of equipment throughout the facilities. Cutting and installing pipe covering, mixing and applying refractory cement and working with other asbestos insulation created a dusty and dangerous work environment.