GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter X Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Picture icon Hamburger Icon Close Icon Sorted

Community and Q&A

Is Drywall Compound Toxic to Breathe

kevinjm4 | Posted in General Questions on

should there be any concern with drywall mud when drying after application and emitting harful fumes?

specifically topping compound.

like this product here:

i do know that the sanding aspect of this process process can be harmful and should be contained, but just wondering about the fumes when drying.

This job is being done in a house that is being lived in currently.


GBA Prime

Join the leading community of building science experts

Become a GBA Prime member and get instant access to the latest developments in green building, research, and reports from the field.


  1. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #1

    The dust isn’t good to breath, and it tends to get everywhere. Wear a dust mask while sanding, use some plastic sheeting to wall off the area where you’re working (make sure to seal up any air vents), and the use of a sander with a vacuum attachment can help too. USG also makes a “dust control” version of topping mud which makes a sort of heavier dust that doesn’t carry as far, but it’s softer than regular mud when it hardens so there is a bit of a tradeoff.

    Drywall mud doesn’t usually emit much in the way of fumes while it’s drying. I’ve never heard of anyone being sensitive to “fumes” from drywall work. Many people are bothered by the dust though, so try to keep the dust contained. Drywall dust is the bane of remodelers, it tends to get everywhere and leave a fine coating of dust on everything.


  2. Peter Yost | | #2
  3. MC20000000 | | #3

    My house is getting all walls floated with USG sheet rock mud. It's been giving off fumes that burns your eyes even with the windows open. When dry it appears to be fine. There is some chemical reaction taking place when mixed with water and drying and it's not benign. I've never had dry wall fumes burn my eyes before. This is down right concerning as this is going to be my home for a long time.

  4. MC20000000 | | #4

    I just went down to take pictures and there is a bottle of antifreeze. It appears the guy mudding our house is mixing it. Can that be the cause of the fumes? And is it toxic?

    1. Expert Member
      Deleted | | #5


      1. Expert Member
        NICK KEENAN | | #6

        Automobile antifreeze is ethylene glycol, which is highly toxic if injested. Quick googling tells me it is used as an additive in spackle.

    2. Expert Member
      BILL WICHERS | | #7

      Don’t eat it, but usually the smell isn’t that bad.

      You could try using propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol (if that’s what your drywall guy is currently using), which is a non-toxic version and is usually pink.


      1. MC20000000 | | #8

        Walking in the room for a few minutes my eyes burn and I get light headed. Unfortunately we have to live in the house until the remodel is done.

        I'll just ask they guy to use something else, and open all windows. I don't see how he can work with it for 8 hours a day with the windows closed.


        1. Expert Member
          BILL WICHERS | | #9

          That doesn't sound like glycol smell to me. I've been around that stuff a lot since it's used as antifreeze in the cooling water in many large facilities. Usually glycol has a slightly sweet smell, but not overpowering. You should probably ask your guy what else he's been using. The hot mud (the powder you mix with water) doesn't really have much of a smell, it's pretty much just plaster.

          Definitely open the windows, and maybe setup a fan. If you run the fan in the room blowing OUT, it will keep the room at negative pressure with respect to the rest of your house and will keep any smells in the room from getting into the occupied living spaces.


        2. Expert Member
          Michael Maines | | #10

          Is your water acidic or sulfurous? Just a guess but you may be creating a noxious gas when the water reacts with the limestone in the joint compound.

        3. andy_ | | #11

          I've experienced this eye burning too, but only on larger jobs like when they're taping and mudding a whole house at once and it's too cold to leave any windows open. That tends to dissipate after a day or so. I was back on that same house a few days later and there was no lingering smell or burning.
          My guess is that it's the chemical reaction in hot mud. If you can, isolate the work area and ventilate the rest.

  5. walta100 | | #12

    I would ask them why they are using antifreeze and to show you on the label where it is recommended by the manufacture.

    I doubt they could provide any answer I would find reasonable and would ask to stop using the antifreeze.

    Most pros use a premixed compound. I only mix my own for the fast setting compound and I use that compound to fill the large voids before the first round and switch to premix.

    Please do post their logic as I am curious as to how antifreeze could be helpful.


  6. Expert Member
    NICK KEENAN | | #13

    Some googling tells me that some premixed spackling compounds (Red Devil for one) contain ethylene glycol. Some latex paints as well. Apparently in drywall compound it reduces foaming (which limits trapped air caused by bubbles) and makes the dust clump together which makes sanding less messy.

  7. miami1569 | | #14

    hi. I was wondering if you ever got to the bottom of this. I am experiencing the same exact issue. I have never had my eyes, mouth and lungs exposed to such a terrible burn without an obvious source. The same exact product is being used. I’m shook. It cannot be healthy for children or anyone to be exposed to this. I have had pure bloodshot eyes all week and a light burn to my skin. What I am wondering is what is being mixed with it to cause this. It has to be so toxic. I have never seen this before. I am really curious. If anyone could share their knowledge I would appreciate. Thank you.

  8. Protectfromtoxins | | #15

    I GUARANTEE YOU (no matter what the supposed 'experts' are saying on this site: USG BEADEX IS DEFINITELY HARMFUL TO YOUR HEALTH. Those of you who commented that you felt ill being around it: Yes, me too. And it is NOT the sanding (yes, the sanding is a problem because it releases very fine particulate that can get deep into your lungs. Google PM 2.5) This is downright nasty to breathe when wet. It made me very sick and impacted my mood as well even with windows open and significant ventilation. There is 'something' in this that is toxic - and those of us saying so are the "canary in the coal mine" (sensitive enough to know we are being essentially poisoned)

  9. Protectfromtoxins | | #16

    write this down: MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEET
    if you google: msds (and then the product you want to know more about/product name)
    I just did that with USG Beadex joint compound and it explains why it makes some of us sick:
    formaldehyde (google formaldehyde/toxins) and also Vinyl Acetate Monomer; vinyl acetate polymer
    Ethylene Vinyl Acetate Polymer (vinyl is toxic and many polymers are as well)
    Many of us now know the risks of silica/sand on lung health
    Problem with MSDS: Unless a product is severely dangerous you will see 'unknown' typed in. Good idea to complain to EPA and OSHA about your reactions to this.
    Obviously we have no other product to use in it's place - so unconscious bias may take place (like the 'expert' option above...gee....can't see any harm with it" )
    LISTEN TO YOUR BODY and certainly protect your children and animals as well

Log in or create an account to post an answer.


Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |