Does Your Popcorn Ceiling Contain Asbestos?

AbatementIf you have a home that has popcorn ceilings, or if you bought a home that has been remodeled and the popcorn ceilings have been removed, then this article is a must-read article for you.

Popcorn ceilings, although they are not the trend now, were originally designed to hide ceiling imperfections and to improve acoustics. Asbestos is in the adhesive that binds the popcorn ceilings, and in the Clean Air Act of 1978 the use of asbestos in ceiling treatments was banned. This article is specifically addressing homes that were built before 1980.

First and foremost, if you have inherited a home you are going to update and sell, or if you have bought a home as an investment property that you are going to “flip”,  you need to know that if you remove the popcorn ceilings you MUST disclose that to the new buyer. If you are going to take down the popcorn ceiling in your own home, here are some important facts you need to know.

Some facts about asbestos:

  • Asbestos has the ability to break down into microscopically thin fibers.
  • These fibers are so small they can remain airborne for days after they were initially disturbed.
  • Asbestos fibers can attach to the body or anywhere else porous, including clothing, curtains, etc.
  • Many of the fibers will become trapped in the mucous membranes of the nose and throat where they can then be removed, but some may pass deep into the lungs, or, if swallowed, into the digestive tract.
  • Because it is so hard to destroy asbestos fibers, the body cannot break them down or remove them once they are lodged in lung or body tissues.
  • Once lodged in the lung tissue, these fibers can cause several serious diseases, including lung cancer, asbestosis (a scarring of the lung tissue) and mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the lung cavity).

Asbestos is most hazardous when it is friable. The term “friable” means that the asbestos is easily crumbled by hand, releasing fibers into the air. Sprayed on asbestos insulation is highly friable. Asbestos floor tile is not. If an asbestos ceiling tile is drilled or broken, for example, it may release fibers into the air. If it is left alone and not disturbed, it will not. Damage and deterioration will increase the friability of asbestos-containing materials. Water damage, continual vibration, aging, and physical impact such as drilling, grinding, buffing, cutting, sawing, or striking can break the materials down making fiber release more likely.

Asbestos fibers can attach to the body or anywhere else porous, including clothing, curtains, etc. Cases of mesothelioma have occurred in children whose only exposures were from the dust brought home on the clothing of the family members who worked with asbestos. Asbestos on clothing that is washed with non-contaminated clothing can affect the whole load. The younger people are when they inhale asbestos, the more likely they are to develop mesothelioma. This is why enormous efforts are being made to prevent school children from being exposed.

If you currently have popcorn ceilings in your home and are considering removing them, have the ceiling tested first. Accurate Interior Testing is one such Phoenix company. I called them to test my home in Tempe, Arizona.

The testing company will usually test three rooms to get an accurate reading, then send the test pieces to the lab. If the lab results come back “hot”, then you can proceed accordingly. Anything over 1% asbestos usually requires an abatement company to remove the popcorn ceiling.

I know it’s tempting to do this project yourself. There are many YouTube videos on how to diy this, and even machines you can rent at Lowe’s and Home Depot to assist in the project. First make sure it is safe to do this yourself with a simple test. Risking your health and the health of your family is not worth saving a few dollars.

Some of the resources we used:

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