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Rash from Plaster/Drywall Removal?

abw12's picture

Ok, so a rash started to show up on my left arm while cleaning up — kinda felt like a bunch of metal fillings on my skin. THen it shows up on both arms (I was wearing short sleeves — bad idea).

Was wondering if anyone knows what might casue it — its an older house, maybe from before the 50's judges by the wiring (cloth cables). Which is why I was confused about their being a drywall like product behind the coat of plaster — maybe it was redone at some point?

I thought maybe asbestos, but seems like that isn't likely the cause. Just wondering if anyone might know.

and YES I did have my respirator on (3M Quicklatch with proper filters).

THanks.....Seems like its starting go go down a little — but I stress teh 'metal filling' feeling

(post #66711, reply #1 of 10)

cold water shower seems to have washed off whatever it was, dying down now

(post #66711, reply #2 of 10)

I would venture to guess that the rash may be from the plaster, not the board. 

If it was like horsehair plaster, its common that the tanneries used lye to slough off the hair from the hides.  Your moist skin may have activated the lye again.  I would not try to stop the rash by altering the ph, because it is a chemical reaction and may burn more.  Just cool water, possibly a calamine or bactine.

You also could have gotten into some arsenic which is also common in plaster.  

Glad you had your mask on, wash your gear before you use it again.

See someone if it isnt better in a few days.


(post #66711, reply #3 of 10)

Thanks, sounds good. Didn't realize arsenic could be an issue — it didn't appear to be hairish though.

And yes the respirator is awesome — definatley worth the $40 — I'll clean it tonight.

(post #66711, reply #4 of 10)

I think the plaster itself has a high pH (alkiline) whether there was lye involved or not. Drywall mud, lime and cement all have high pH and are very irritating to skin. If you were sweating, makes it worse. If washing off in cool water worked, so much the better. I've found that washing my hands in vinegar after working with concrete helps (and rinsing with lots of clear water). (May hesitate to wash whole body in vinegar--sure wouldn't want it in eyes.)

(post #66711, reply #5 of 10)

I would say the lime in the plaster. Some react to it more than others. Work with finish lime for a while and you'll find what I'm talking about. Make sure you wear long sleeves, masks, gloves, goggles...all that. Wash any exposed skin right afterwords, then at night rub in aloe or bag balm of some kind. You'll be fine then.

(post #66711, reply #6 of 10)

I got interrupted the first time I read this ... just found it again.

That "style" of plastering is called "Rock Lath" ...

came in mid 30's, I think?

replaced wood lath.

kind of the precurser to blue board and skim coat.

Like the others have said ... probably a mild reaction to something in the plaster.

everything they mentioned was used ... horse hair ... lime ... what ever carsonagins were popular too! Might just be simple "dust" allergy too. Very fine dust of the era ...

I've never been one to be affected by it ... but my wife is pretty sensitive. She's had bumps and redness in the past helping me on a demo project. I grew up demo'ing 100 year old homes across the street from steel mills ...

very fine, black soot.

I just called it "the plague" ...

think of it this way ... it's like getting a big antibiotic shot! If it doesn't kill ya .. yer stronger ...


and dust mites ... can't forget the living creatures U swallowed either ...



    Buck Construction

 Artistry In Carpentry

     Pittsburgh Pa

    Buck Construction

 Artistry In Carpentry

     Pittsburgh Pa

(post #66711, reply #7 of 10)

Thanks guys. Well yes, I'm definately going in long sleeves and wearing gloves (though my hands didn't really seem to have a problem, mostly the joint around the elbow).

We'll see if i get a rash today!!


(post #66711, reply #8 of 10)

I've seen guys use duct tape of masking tape to tape their gloves to their sleeves to keep dust out of 'em.

Never tried it, but it makes sense.

When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one. But you won't come up with a handful of mud, either. [Leo Burnett]

(post #66711, reply #9 of 10)

But if you do use duck tape, be sure and fold over the end of the tape before you seal your hands inside the gloves!  Otherwise you might have to cut yourself out if you can't get the tape started unpealing.

That's my story and its sticking to me.


(post #66711, reply #10 of 10)

A lot of commercial, fire rated, drywall products have long fiberglass strands in them to rigidity and maintain integrity during a fire. I have been told, don't know for sure, that some earlier products also had similar structures.

I can testify that the long, stiff glass strands in fire rock can easily cause a rash and itching. Particularly at tender spots like the inside of the elbow. The moisture, soft skin and the extra friction caused when joint closes makes the situation worse. Collar lines, behind the knee if shorts are worn and inside the elbow joint are common trouble points.

Fiberglass, mineral glass strands, horse hair and chemical compounds are possible causes. Rinsing the area, cold water and the stiff spray from a hose seems to work better than warm water, before a good shower is a good start. Until you get the bulk off avoid scrubbing.

Climbing into attics I get a lot of fiberglass and mineral wool exposure. Found out a long time ago that it pays to hose off the arms and collar line as soon as I leave the attic or at the first signs of exposure. A stiff spray and shake dry works best. Only takes a minute or two.

If the itch keeps you awake diphenhydramine, Benedril, antihistamine tablets can dull the itch. 1% cortisone can help the rash directly I hear but I have seldom used it.