Identifying Asbestos in Ceiling Tiles and Popcorn Ceilings

Building materials are one of the most common uses for asbestos. The mineral is often used for insulation, flooring, ceilings and roofing. It became a popular choice during the 1900s due to its fire resistance and fiber strength.

However, this material is a known carcinogen that has been linked to multiple forms of cancer and other diseases. There are still many intact buildings that were built before the EPA partially banned use of the dangerous fiber.

Asbestos could be right above your head on a daily basis depending on what kind of ceiling your building has. There are asbestos filled ceiling tiles and popcorn ceilings in residential and commercial buildings.

These ceilings can begin posing health risks if they are deteriorating or damaged. Asbestos can enter the air during building renovations involving these materials as well.


How to Tell if Ceiling Tiles Contain Asbestos

One of the biggest identifiers of whether or not your ceiling tiles contain asbestos is the age of the building, the ceiling and the tiles used. Asbestos regulations started to take hold in the 1970s and the EPA partially banned the use of asbestos in many industries in 1989. 

If your ceiling tiles have a manufacturing date or if you have documents from the installation, you should check to see if the tiles were made before or after 1989.

You can also check to see if the manufacturer ever produced asbestos products. If they did not, you are in the clear regardless of year. The Mesothelioma Center keeps a comprehensive list of manufacturers that produced products containing asbestos.

If you don’t have access to the manufacturing details, you can also check the age of the building, and specifically the age of the ceilings. For instance, many schools were built during the 1950s and 1960s when asbestos was very commonly used for building materials.

Most old asbestos ceiling tiles look light colored, slightly textured and powdery white. They often have small dotted indentations.

If your tiles remain intact there is little to no health risk. However, deteriorating ceilings can put all of your building’s users at risk. There is a high chance that if your tiles are old enough to contain asbestos, they are also old enough to be crumbling and dusty.

If you are concerned about your tiles and want to know for sure if they contain asbestos, you should consider lab testing. EHS uses Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) to test bulk building materials for asbestos. These tests determine the various fibers used in your material and what species of the asbestos mineral family are used.


Finding Asbestos in Popcorn Ceilings

Government and commercial buildings are at the highest risk of having asbestos ceiling tiles.. But, older residential buildings are not free of worry either. They may have popcorn ceilings that use asbestos.

Popcorn ceilings have a rough and bumpy texture usually achieved by using vermiculite or polystyrene. The ceilings were very popular from the 1950s to 1980s when vermiculite regularly contained asbestos. The EPA recommends treating all vermiculite products as asbestos.

If your home or business has a popcorn ceiling put together after asbestos regulations, you may be in the clear. However, if it has an older ceiling it may be worth getting it tested by a professional. 

The dangers of asbestos are based on its presence alone. It does not matter how much was used. If you need a popcorn ceiling removed, there should be a lot of precautions taken to avoid exposure.

During removal, you should wear disposable coveralls, safety glasses, rubber boots, gloves and a respirator with a HEPA filter. After the work is complete, you should deep clean the area, your tools and yourself.


Health Issues Caused by Asbestos

It’s crucial to protect yourself and anyone else using your building from asbestos due to the numerous health issues it can cause. According to the CDC, asbestos has been linked to the following ailments:

  • Asbestosis or scarred lungs from breathing in asbestos. If your lungs become scarred, it can be harder for oxygen and carbon dioxide to travel through them. This is typically caused by high exposures for long periods of time.
  • Pleural Disease which causes the membrane surrounding your lungs and chest cavity to become thicker. It can also lead to fluid build up. In certain cases, this can negatively impact lung function.
  • Lung Cancer which involves a malignant tumor growing in the lungs and blocking air. People who smoke and have been exposed to asbestos have a higher chance of being diagnosed with lung cancer.
  • Mesothelioma is the form of cancer most commonly associated with asbestos exposure. This cancer attacks the membrane around your lungs and chest cavity. It could take 30 to 40 years after exposure for this cancer to show.


Test for Asbestos to Protect Your Business and Home

If you suspect your ceilings or other parts of your business could contain asbestos, it’s essential to get testing done. This is especially important leading up to any renovations that may cause the spreading of dust and debris.

EHS offers bulk material, airborne, vermiculite and soil asbestos testing.

Contact us today to start protecting your health.