Several types of accessory products are commonly used in drywall installation. Paper tape and joint compound, also referred to as ‘mud,’ are used for sealing the joints between drywall panels. Sealants may also be used to seal gaps for acoustical reasons.

Here are some general rules of thumb to use when choosing drywall accessory materials:

  • Avoid “mold-resistant” type joint compounds unless needed. These products may contain additional hazardous antimicrobials.
  • Prefer products that do not contain talc, or are verified to not contain asbestos contamination. Historically, some joint compounds have contained intentionally added asbestos. The Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the intentional inclusion of asbestos in these materials in 1978. Because talc often occurs in the ground near asbestos deposits, and joint compounds commonly contain talc, it is possible that some joint compounds contain asbestos. HBN has not seen any specific evidence of this. At least one manufacturer that uses talc reports that it has documentation from its suppliers indicating no detectable asbestos, and many joint compound manufacturers advertise their products as being "asbestos-free." 
  • Choose phthalate-free acoustical sealants. Today, most drywall acoustical sealants are water-based acrylic sealants and no longer use phthalate plasticizers, but verify this is the case for products you use. For more information, see the Sealant Hazard Spectrum.

One of the primary concerns with drywall accessories is the crystalline silica that is a common contaminant in joint compound. Crystalline silica is an occupational concern because joint compound is sanded after it dries. Thus, workers can inhale the silica dust which is considered a carcinogen. Crystalline silica is difficult to avoid in standard joint compound, but some products report lower levels than others. Dust levels in the air during drywall finishing can be decreased by using vacuum dust collection or wet-sanding methods. Proper dust reduction and protective equipment are necessary to protect installers and other workers in the area.

Finally, joint compounds commonly contain a small percentage of a polymeric binder, typically a polyvinyl acetate, ethylene vinyl acetate, or acrylic vinyl acetate polymer (or some combination). As a result, these joint compounds may be called "vinyl base ready mix" or "vinyl-type mixture" or "vinyl type." This is in reference to the binder type and is not referring to PVC or polyvinyl chloride (which is also commonly referred to as vinyl). Those familiar with healthier material recommendations may want to avoid PVC (vinyl) generally. HBN has not identified any joint compound materials that include PVC, and the polymeric binders that are used in joint compound do not have the same life cycle concerns as PVC.

For references and more information on the content of these accessory products, see these Common Product profiles developed by Healthy Building Network:
Drywall Joint Tape, Drywall Joint Compound, and Drywall Acoustical Sealant.