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How Common is Asbestos in Popcorn Ceilings in Homes?

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Mesothelioma & Asbestos Aug 04, 2022

scraping down popcorn ceilingIf you live in a home built before 1980 or are considering buying or renting a home built before 1980, you need to learn if there are any asbestos exposure risks. While you may have heard about the risks presented by insulation, you may not know that popcorn ceilings installed before 1980 contain a small amount of asbestos.

Our experienced Maryland mesothelioma lawyers discuss the asbestos exposure risks presented by old popcorn ceilings and what steps homeowners and renters can take to deal with the danger.

If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis because of exposure to asbestos, we may be able to help you seek compensation for your damages. You can schedule a free legal consultation to learn more about how we may be able to help you.

The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl has been helping asbestos victims for decades, recovering millions on behalf of our clients. We have taken on some of the largest corporate employers in the nation. There are no upfront fees for our services, and we do not get paid unless you recover compensation.

Asbestos in Popcorn Ceilings

A popcorn ceiling is a type of textured paint that contains small, popcorn-like kernels. It may be inconceivable to many homeowners today, but popcorn ceilings were quite popular between 1950 and 1990. Homeowners appreciated how easy it was to spray on this material and how a popcorn ceiling helped to soundproof a room. Popcorn ceilings are also known for being fire-retardant.

Generally, any popcorn ceiling that was applied before 1980 contains asbestos. As little as one percent of the material or as much as 10 percent of the material could contain asbestos. If you own a home that was built before 1980, or your home had a significant remodel before 1980, there is a good chance the popcorn ceiling contains asbestos. If there is any other textured paint in the home, and it was applied before 1980, it may also contain asbestos.

There is no way to tell if a popcorn ceiling contains asbestos simply by looking at it. The asbestos fibers in popcorn ceiling paint are 1,200 times thinner than a single human hair. You need to have your popcorn ceiling professionally tested to determine if it contains asbestos.

Dangers of Asbestos-Containing Popcorn Ceilings

You may have heard that asbestos is not dangerous if it is left alone. However, this is not a long-term strategy for avoiding asbestos exposure. In the short-term, keeping the door to a room closed and avoiding that room is a good idea, but you do not want to take the risk of asbestos being disturbed without you realizing it.

The first thing you need to do is test the ceiling to see if it contains asbestos. You need to collect a sample of the material. The ideal method is to gather samples from at least two areas, as one sample from one spot may not provide an accurate picture of how much asbestos is in the ceiling.

You can have professionals do this, and this is probably the safest method. If you do this yourself, you need to make sure to wear a mask and put a plastic sheet on the floor to catch any dust that is created when you collect your samples.

Before you scrape away samples from the ceiling, make sure you have a wet wipe. Once you scrape away a sample, wipe up any debris to help prevent it from getting airborne.

Immediately put the samples into a plastic bag and seal it tightly. Send the sample to an asbestos testing lab and wait for them to give you the results.

Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands and put your clothes into the washing machine right away.

You should also keep people out of the area of your home that may contain asbestos. Close the vents to the room, shut all the doors and windows and keep your pets out of the room.

If your ceiling is found to contain asbestos, you should have licensed professionals deal with it. There are three main options for trying to ensure your safety:

Encasing the Area

You could put new ceiling tiles over the popcorn ceiling or install some other type of physical barrier to prevent the release of any asbestos dust. This may be a good option, but you need to determine what the risk of asbestos exposure would be. Discuss the situation with licensed professionals.

Encapsulate the Asbestos

This refers to sealing up the asbestos-containing materials with a binding substance like paint. However, encapsulation can be challenging, particularly because there is a risk of releasing small popcorn particles into the air. That is why encapsulation should only be done by a trained asbestos abatement professional.

While encasement and encapsulation may work, it is important to remember that if you need to remodel later, you may need to use more protective measures to prevent asbestos fibers from being released into the air. If you sell the home, you will be required to tell potential buyers about the presence of asbestos.

Remove the Asbestos-Containing Product

Sometimes the best way to deal with the situation is to have the asbestos removed from your home. However, as this is far riskier than leaving it in the home while mitigating the risk, you should only have asbestos removed by trained mitigation professionals.

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