Asbestos was a frequently used mineral in many occupations and structures as recently as the 1990s. One of the most common places to find asbestos is in the home – specifically in popcorn ceilings, which can be in homes and schools.
The danger of asbestos is the risk of exposure by ingesting loose fibers in the air. Because the asbestos is locked in the textured ceiling spray, the mineral does not pose an imminent threat; however, the popcorn ceiling is fragile and flaky. Even the slightest brush against the textured ceiling could cause the popcorn-like material to crumble – releasing harmful, stray asbestos particles into the air.
Exposure to asbestos can lead to cancer. Thousands of people each year die from cancer caused by asbestos exposure. The number one cancer linked to asbestos is lung cancer. Many people with asbestos diseases were exposed from popcorn ceiling in their home.
What Is Asbestos Popcorn Ceiling?
Asbestos popcorn ceilings were introduced to the U.S. between the 1920s and 1930s and became very popular features in American homes and school buildings until the 1990s. The term “popcorn ceiling” was coined after the ceiling style’s finished appearance resembled popcorn kernels. This style was attractive to builders because of the affordable price tag, simple spray-on application process and ease of concealing imperfections.
Of course, an inexpensive and efficient ceiling finish was also a health risk. Asbestos was one of the key ingredients in popcorn ceiling spray.
At the time asbestos was a popular component of popcorn ceilings – among other uses to build houses, schools, entertainment venues, government buildings, and office buildings – the dangers of the mineral were unknown.
Over time, the deadly effects of asbestos exposure became more known and regulatory agencies implemented laws limiting asbestos in the United States. The use of popcorn ceilings has significantly declined since the 1990s, but homes built before then most likely have this ceiling style in their home.
How To Know If Your Popcorn Ceiling Contains Asbestos
If your home or school was built pre-1990, there is a high chance that materials used to build your home contain traces of asbestos. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than half of houses today were built before 1980, likely with asbestos hiding somewhere.
Additionally, many school buildings were built decades ago and have not been renovated. Asbestos in schools is a major issue in the United States.
It is imperative to know if asbestos is present in your home. Not knowing if the cancer-causing mineral exists in your home could lead to extremely harmful consequences: mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and more. These diseases often cause chest pain and difficulty breathing.
Unfortunately, asbestos cannot be detected by touch or sight. The most effective way to determine if asbestos is lurking in your home is by contacting a professional to inspect and collect samples from the residence. It is possible to collect samples on your own, but it is safest to call a local professional.
How to Test Popcorn Ceiling for Asbestos
If you own a home with popcorn ceiling, you may want to remodel the home or replace the ceiling. This type of project can expose you to asbestos, so there are preventative measures you should take. As always, once you know asbestos is in your home, you should contact a professional to safely remove asbestos. Homeowners should not risk trying to remove asbestos on their own.
When collecting a sample of the popcorn ceiling, it is important to protect yourself from inhaling any dust or debris that falls. The dust from the popcorn ceiling could contain asbestos and have lifelong effects on a person if they are not protected properly.
It is important to protect yourself and the rest of your home from asbestos exposure when fixing or removing part of your popcorn ceiling. If the ceiling area is above carpet, lay a plastic sheet down to catch any dust that will fall.
To optimize test results, samples should be collected from at least two separate areas of the ceiling. Place the samples in separate sealed bags and deliver them to a lab for testing. Once the sample collection process is complete, use a damp towel to wipe up popcorn ceiling crumbs or dust and wash your hands thoroughly.
What To Do About Asbestos In Popcorn Ceiling
If popcorn ceiling samples from your home test positive for asbestos, there are a few courses of action: encapsulation or abatement. As always, please rely on a professional to handle any work involving asbestos in your home.
Encapsulation is considered one of the safest strategies to use when approaching asbestos in popcorn ceilings. It encapsulates or traps the asbestos popcorn ceiling underneath specialized materials, preventing the harmful substance from producing dust. The usual methods used by professionals involve spraying the ceiling with a specialized vinyl paint or installing new ceiling panels over the existing popcorn ceiling.
Choosing to encapsulate your asbestos popcorn ceiling is a safe decision, but it’s not a long-term fix for asbestos in popcorn ceiling. You’ll still face the issue of asbestos in your home if a home remodel is in your future. Home renovation projects could disturb any asbestos fibers in popcorn ceiling and release harmful dust and debris – contaminating the air.
Abatement is another strategy for addressing popcorn ceilings with asbestos and the long-term solution, especially if you might remodel your home at some point. This one is a complete removal of the asbestos popcorn ceiling and should only be performed by trained professionals. Asbestos abatement is a dangerous process that requires precision and safety precautions.
Frequently Asked Questions About Asbestos in Popcorn Ceilings
- What is popcorn ceiling?
- How dangerous is asbestos popcorn ceiling?
- How do you remove popcorn ceiling with asbestos?
Popcorn ceiling refers to a style of ceiling that resembles popcorn kernels. It was widely used in American homes during the 20th century. Builders were attracted to the ceiling style because of the affordable price tag, simple spray-on application process and ease of concealing imperfections.
There is no measurable amount of danger associated with popcorn ceiling. However, OSHA states there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Any amount of exposure to asbestos or risk of exposure is dangerous and should be taken seriously. Regardless of the danger level of asbestos popcorn ceiling, the ceiling style should be avoided or extreme caution should be used when in its presence.
If you have popcorn ceiling in your home, it likely contains asbestos. You should contact a licensed and trained professional to inspect the area and properly remove it. The U.S. and most states have specific asbestos safety guidelines and policies in place to protect the environment and public safety. Improperly disposing or handling asbestos can have legal consequences, so trained professionals should be the only ones to remove popcorn ceiling.
- Lung cancer from asbestos textured ceilings: a case study. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4984962/. Accessed: 05/20/2022.
- When to Test for Asbestos in Popcorn Ceilings. JSE Labs. Retrieved from: https://jselabs.com/blog/popcorn-ceiling-asbestos/. Accessed: 05/23/2022.
- In Defense of Popcorn Ceilings. The Spruce. Retrieved from: https://www.thespruce.com/in-defense-of-popcorn-ceilings-5216926. Accessed: 05/24/22.
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Sources & Author