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How to Handle Asbestos in Popcorn Ceiling

Back in the 1960s and 70s, acoustic, or popcorn ceilings, were quite common. Many of these ceilings contained asbestos, which was popular because of its fiber strength, insulation and fire retardant characteristics. But the health risks associated with asbestos have lead to strict regulations on its use. While it is still used in some industries like automotive and construction, asbestos has been significantly phased out of production. In ceiling applications, Asbestos texture was still being installed in homes through the 1980s.

So what about your ceiling? First, not every popcorn ceiling contains asbestos. Only certain manufacturers insisted on adding it as an ingredient. And if it does, the overwhelming consensus among scientists is that it wont pose a health risk unless the ceiling is tampered with. So if you have a popcorn ceiling and are planning to replace it with a healthier and more aesthetically pleasing alternative, it is important that you first determine if asbestos is present. If it is present, you can choose to leave it in place and cover it as described in our popcorn ceiling article.

A common misperception is that you can detect asbestos just by looking at your ceiling. However, asbestos fibers are microscopic and can really only be identified by a polarized light microscope. You can take a sample yourself by shaving off a small piece with a utility knife, placing it in a ziplock bag and sending it to a certified EPA testing lab. Or if you would rather leave it to the professionals, there are certified asbestos removal companies that will take care of it for you.