Gypsum is used in the garden to loosen soil (usually heavy clay soil), but is also found in drywall. This mineral generally contains a small quantity of crystalline silica. It is a white powder, but may also be found in lumps. According to the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) safety card, the scientific name is calcium sulfate dihydrate (CaSO4*2H20) and the molecular mass is 172. 2.
In short-term exposure cases, gypsum may cause mechanical irritation. If your lungs are exposed to gypsum for a long period, or if your lungs are exposed in repeated short-term exposures, the lung function is affected, causing shortness of breath and possibly adult respiratory distress syndrome. If you breathe gypsum dust, cough to get the dust out of your lungs. Get into the fresh air as soon as possible. You might need oxygen if you have a high amount of gypsum in your lungs from long-term or repeated short-term exposure.
Gypsum may irritate your skin, depending on your sensitivity to the chemical. A short exposure could cause itching, hives or a rash, but most people experience skin problems with long-term exposure. Rinse your skin with soap and water as soon as possible when you are exposed to gypsum.
If you get gypsum dust in your eyes, you may experience pain and redness. To prevent eye problems, always wear safety goggles when working with gypsum. If you get gypsum or gypsum dust in your eyes, rinse your eyes with water for at least seven to 10 minutes. If you wear contact lenses, remove them before rinsing with water. Do not put the lenses back in until they are properly cleaned and sanitized. If your eyes do not clear after rinsing, see your doctor right away.
Do not eat, drink or smoke in areas where gypsum is present. Gypsum dust is a fine powder and could easily get into your food or drink. If you smoke around gypsum, you risk inhaling gypsum dust. If you inhale gypsum dust, rinse your mouth with water.