Asbestos hazards in popcorn & textured ceiling paints
How to recognize, remove, cover-up or handle asbestos-containing spray-on ceiling popcorn paint
CEILING PAINT TEXTURED ASBESTOS - CONTENTS: How to identify textured ceiling paints that may contain asbestos: photographs of possible asbestos-containing ceiling paint, popcorn ceiling paint asbestos, or textured ceiling paint asbestos content.
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Asbestos in Popcorn Ceiling Paint Sprays:
Asbestos-containing ceiling paint: asbestos was used as a filler in popcorn ceiling paint - a nubbled or pebbled surface sprayed onto interior ceilings. This article describes how to recognize, test, and remove, cover, or renovate popcorn style ceiling paints that may contain asbestos.
This article series photographs and descriptive text of asbestos insulation and other asbestos-containing products
to permit identification of definite, probable, or possible asbestos materials in buildings.
Asbestos-containing "popcorn" or textured ceiling paint coatings
How to Recognize Asbestos suspect ceiling paint in popcorn ceilings
Some acoustic ceiling paint spray-on coatings contain asbestos. If renovation is planned it may be smart to simply handle this material as if it contained
[Click to enlarge any image]
Asbestos Ceiling paints, textured or popcorn ceilings containing asbestos included spray-on acoustical ceilings and ceilings sprayed for fireproofing.
Textured ceiling paints were particularly popular in North America in the 1970's. If you are considering removing textured ceiling paint or "popcorn ceiling paint" in a building, since removing popcorn ceiling paint or textured paints that may contain asbestos are trickier than you may realize, here are some suggestions:
Watch out: During any construction, demolition, or building remodeling project, as dust and particles from many materials, even paper and wood can be irritating or harmful to workers and occupants, prudent procedure would include appropriate dust control, personal protection equipment, and cleaning methods.
Artex textured coating sold in the U.K.: Artex Ltd., produced Artex textured paint used on interior ceilings and sometimes walls, sold in the U.K. The company has been part of the French Saint-Gobain group since 2005. According to some sources Artex contained white asbestos until the mid 1980's. Because that product containing asbestos may have been sold from old stock, homes built after 1985 but probably before 1990 and that used Artex textured ceiling paint in the U.K. may have asbestos-containing material in those locations.
Advice for Handling Asbestos-Suspect Textured Ceiling Paint
Leave textured asbestos ceiling paint alone: The best approach is to leave the textured ceiling paint material alone: experts advise that asbestos containing materials be left alone unless the material is damaged and bringing asbestos into occupied space.
In general people create more hazards by disturbing the material during a cleanup than if it were left alone. In sum the easiest, safest, least costly approach is to leave textured ceiling paint alone, in place.
Painting over a textured ceiling paint coated surface, as long as the paint is secure, is what most people will advise. Try spray-painting as this will disturb sound in-place textured ceiling paint material least.
If you must remove textured asbestos ceiling paint, that is, if there were a good reason to remove the paint, you'd probably to do it yourself (which requires specific procedures to protect health and to protect from contaminating the building) or more likely you'd need to use a professional asbestos abatement company. The combination of health risk and risk of causing a still more costly dust contamination of the home are reasons to think twice before a do-it-yourself asbestos containing ceiling paint removal.
Do not hire someone unqualified to remove the asbestos-containing textured ceiling paint nor any other asbestos-containing material. Use a licensed, qualified asbestos abatement professional. Even for collecting a sample of ceiling paint for testing, If the ceiling has already been painted, you would have difficulty wetting the material to do a scrape-off.
Disturbing textured ceiling paint when it is dry is hazardous and should not be done even if the paint is not asbestos containing.
If you know the age of the building you can infer whether or not there is likely to be asbestos at no lab cost whatsoever. If your home was built in the 1980's or later asbestos ceiling paint is unlikely to be present. Our photo, above, shows modern textured ceiling paint that does not contain asbestos. But you cannot determine this just by looking. Testing of a sample of the paint (wet to remove) is necessary.
For asbestos testing and lead testing we recommend that you use either a local testing lab (look in your telephone book yellow pages under "Asbestos Testing" or "Asbestos Labs") or use a national,low cost high volume asbestos-testing-certified lab.
See ASBESTOS TESTING LAB LIST
At above left is a photograph of a spray-on fire resistant coating that was installed on a New York building in 2008. This coating will not contain asbestos, though it may resemble older asbestos-containing fire-retardant sprays.
Visual & Historic Clues Assist in Identifying Textured Paint or Popcorn Spray Paint Ceilings that Do Not Contain Asbestos
While the following visual and historic clues are not necessarily conclusive, they give examples of reasons to infer that a textured ceiling spray - at least the coating that can be seen, touched, tested - does not contain asbestos.
Reader Question: is asbestos popcorn ceiling paint hard or soft?
(Sept 15, 2014) anthony said:
i have old plaster that has thin white brown fibers that are about as think as horse hair also i have popcorn paint on the side of the walls my question is.. is alspstose [sic - asbestos] popcorn celing paint soft or hard like cement, i was sanding the love out of it got me worried now. msg email@example.com cheers.
The asbestos-containing popcorn ceiling paint is rather soft, but might be harder if subsequently given additional coatings. However the actual sperules that make the popcorn kernels in modern non-asbestos popcorn ceilings are typically made of still softer styrofoam that in my experience is easily brushed away from the building surface with almost no force whatsoever.
Reader Question: is it possible to distinguish asbestos from non-asbestos popcorn ceiling paint by visual inspection?
22 Feb 2015 Tyler said:
Is there a way to tell if a ceiling texture has asbestos by the pattern? Im checking out a potential job that has the very small pepple-like pattern to it and asbestos is a longer fiber. I noticed a lot of the articles about asbestos in popcorn ceilings seems to show a more spread out pattern.
Tyler, in my opinion the size of the textured popcorn ceiling kernels is principally an artifact of how the mixture was prepared and how the spray gun was adjusted. Asbestos fibers themselves are microscopically so small that I'm doubtful that the choice of asbestos fiber type would determine the popcorn kernel size. Also worth noting was the use of very fine asbestos filler as ultra fine particles in several building products including floor and ceiling coverings.
Popcorn spray on ceilings was popular in some parts of the world including North America from the 1950s, and contained white chrysotile asbestos through the 1980's.
Knowing that a ceiling was popcorn sprayed in the 1990's or more recently, or observing asbestos's successor material used to form the popcorn kernels or flakes, that is fine styrofoam pellets or flakes (Hanson 2013), in the ceiling popcorn kernels might help suggest which substances are present.
I find that modern styrofoam popcorn ceiling spray is a bit softer and more fragile than its antecedents, more fragile, easily brushed off of the surface by hand, and typically containing recognizable fragments of styrofoam in at least the larger popcorn spherules or kernels.
Watch out: even though the newer popcorn ceiling sprays won't contain asbestos, the spray might not contain recognizable asbestos particles. We note that for repair of popcorn or similarly textured ceilings other fibrous materials (not styrofoam) are used and are applied using a method to cause them to clump together to resemble the styrofoam pellets used in initial application (Woods 2004), and consisting of
... Preferably, an example of the material 15 comprises a liquid base, a filler, an adhesive binder, a propellant, an anti-foaming agent, a suspension agent, and fibrous materials.
The liquid base may be any aqueous substance such as water and/or a non-aqueous substance such as alcohol, aromatic or aliphatic hydrocarbons, ketones, esters or the like.
The filler may be any material that can serve as an extender or bodifier such as limestone, clay, mica, silica, or similar materials, or a mixture thereof. The filler may also be made of a paint-based material.
The adhesive binder is an adhesive that may take the form of a natural polymer, such as gums and resins and the like, or a synthetic polymer, such as polyvinyl alcohol, polyvinyl acetate, acrylic polymers, alkyd resins, etc., or a combination thereof.
If large expense or issues of making a mess arise then it's worth the small cost to test a sample.
See ASBESTOS TESTING LAB LIST
Question: asbestos hazard in popcorn ceiling paint in a 1981 home?
We recently remodeled our 1981 home without much knowledge about hazards (yes, bad on us). It wasn't really something that we wanted to do but we had a disaster that necessitated.
The popcorn ceilings were sprayed with paint, inadvertently removing some of the popcorn and the old red ceramic (glazed white) jackhammered and replaced. The people working on the walls tested the drywall and paint for lead and asbestos. Both were negative. We tested the tile with a home kit and it showed negative for lead.
We asked the guys who were jackhammering to use fans to blow dust out of the house, turn our AC off, and to put up a plastic barrier. They did a decent, not perfect, job. They swept and wiped up. After all was said and done we swept and mopped up the remaining dust.
How worried for our toddler's safety should we be?
We didn't test the popcorn or the tile/grout for asbestos because we didn't know at the time. Are those an issue in 1981 homes? Would what was done to the ceiling (spraying new paint on accidentally knocking some popcorn off in the process) even be a problem? We will, of course, test if you recommend.
PS This was a few months ago we have been sweeping, mopping, and damp-cloth dusting since. I'm not sure how much original dust will be left. - Anonymous by private email 2016/09/16
So let me get this right. You tested a number of things but not the popcorn ceiling. If that's the case and you want some peace of mind I suggest that you collect a representative sample of settled dust and have that analyzed by a certified asbestos test lab.
If the knock-off debris from your popcorn-painted ceilings was just a few specs I'd not be worried about an asbestos-contamination issue; if you needed to demolish the ceiling I'd either treat it as asbestos-containing or have a sample tested.
If you're un certain about the presence of a remaining hazard, find some settled dust from the work period and send it to a lab - see
ASBESTOS TESTING LAB LIST
I can almost always find old dust even in cleaned buildings. Look along high horizontal trim such as over doorways and windows, or on floors under radiators or baseboards.
Although the 1978 Clean Air act in the U.S. led to cessation of manufacture of many asbestos-containing products, paint sellers and painters may have used "new old stock" into the 1980's so one cannot rule out asbestos-containing popcorn paint or textured paint in a home in the U.S. built or painted in the first half of the 1980's.
Reader follow-up: find out the age of your ceiling paint
We have now learned that the ceiling in this building may have been painted or re-painted after the use of asbestos in ceiling paints had been discontinued. Therefore the recent remodeling may not have been the cause of uneven popcorn ceiling paint in this building.
Watch out: readers will want to take care not to panic about possible asbestos in popcorn ceiling paint before they have found the history and age of both their building and the paints used in and on it, including textured and popcorn-style ceiling paints. - Anonymous by private email 2017/1/07
Research & Patents for Popcorn Ceiling Paint Application, Removal, Asbestos Handling
Faraci, Clifford C., Rustom A. Khan, and Daniel Winterstein. "Ceiling scraper vacuum accessory." U.S. Patent 6,601,266, issued August 5, 2003.
Greer Jr, Lester R., Stephen E. Cunningham, and James A. Tryon. "Ceiling scraper with integral debris collector." U.S. Patent 6,101,663, issued August 15, 2000.
Hanson, Randal W., Jinru Bian, John Kordosh, Jason Everett, and Jane D. Wasley. "Acoustic Ceiling Popcorn Texture Materials, Systems, and Methods." U.S. Patent Application 13/802,697, filed March 13, 2013.
Excerpt: Acoustic or “popcorn” texture material is applied to interior surfaces of structures, and typically ceiling surfaces. Acoustic texture material comprises a base material and aggregate material in the form of visible chips or beads. The aggregate material is adhered to the target surface by the base material. In new construction, the acoustic texture material is applied by a hopper gun, and the chips or beads are typically formed of polystyrene foam. The polystyrene foam chips act to dampen sound waves that would otherwise reflect off the target surface.
Kubic, Thomas A. "Method for repairing a textured ceiling or overhead surface." U.S. Patent 5,474,804, issued December 12, 1995.
LaVelle, Scot. "Method and apparatus for toxic substance encapsulation." U.S. Patent 8,721,818, issued May 13, 2014.
Shumway, Christopher. "Scraper with debris collecting means and associated method." U.S. Patent 7,814,609, issued October 19, 2010.
Stankowitz, James L. "Texture applicator." U.S. Patent 4,364,521, issued December 21, 1982.
Viviano, James C. "Vacuum acoustic ceiling removal system." U.S. Patent 8,108,966, issued February 7, 2012.
Woods, John R. "Hardenable flowable substance stored in fluid state and is dispensable in the form of an aerosol spray from a fluid-tight container, after being released and curing, forms bumpy, irregular surface texture, matches with surronding." U.S. Patent 6,797,051, issued September 28, 2004.
Excerpt: U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,505,344, 5,476,879, and 5,341,970, all to the present Applicant, disclose an acoustic ceiling patch that is sprayable from a hand-held aerosol dispenser. However, certain materials, such as Styrofoam (Dow Chemical Company, Midland, Mich.), used in the acoustic ceiling patch to provide texture in the material, cannot be used in the presence of volatile organic compound (VOC) propellants because they will deteriorate or melt. Therefore, only non-VOC propellants or compressed air may be used with these materials. However, the use of non-VOC propellants or compressed air require a greater pressure to dispense the patch containing these materials. The greater pressure may lead to some loss of control for the user when spraying the patch material. Along with the use of a greater pressure to dispense the patch material is the decrease in atomization of the patch material when being dispensed.
... It has been discovered that the use of fibrous materials allows the patch material to clump together to form particulates resembling the Styrofoam used in conventional methods. This helps produce the “Popcorn effect”. The patch material can then build up upon itself without a need for additional repair material on the damaged area.
An object of an embodiment the present invention is to provide an acoustic ceiling spray patch material that is storable and dispensable from a hand-held dispensing unit for spray-on and direct application of the material in a liquid or semi-liquid form onto a repaired or patched area so that the surrounding surface texture will be visually and mechanically matched.
Another object of an embodiment of the present invention is to provide an inexpensive, practical and economical means for matching the surface texture of a repaired or patched surface area on an acoustic ceiling with the surrounding acoustic surface texture.
... The hardenable flowable material includes a base, a filler, an adhesive binder, fibrous materials, that do not decompose in the presence of VOC propellants in the preferred embodiment of the present invention, an anti-foaming agent, a suspension agent, and an aerosol propellant, preferably a VOC propellant, that serves as a carrier medium and a pressure source ...
Woods, John R. "Acoustic ceiling patch spray." U.S. Patent 5,505,344, issued April 9, 1996.
Excerpt: An acoustic ceiling surface usually presents a surface texture which is bumpy or presents an orange peel look and sometimes is referred to as a "Popcorn effect".
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"Artex and Health Risks", Wikipedia U.K., retrieved 2016/05/12, original source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artex, citing
these U.K. sources
Don, Andrew (2011-05-01). "Asbestos: the hidden health hazard in millions of homes". The Observer.
"Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012". Health and Safety Executive. 2008-10-01. Archived from the original on 19 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-16. Most asbestos removal work must be undertaken by a licensed contractor but any decision on whether particular work is licensable is based on the risk.
"Where can asbestos be found - Ceiling Artex". Asbestos Surveying Limited. 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2015/05/12, original source: http://www.asbestossurveyingltd.co.uk/where_asbestos_ceiling_artex.htm
Excerpt: Old decorative ceiling coatings like 'Artex' often had small amounts of asbestos added to the material to improve strength. Generally if ceilings are in good condition, they can be left alone and 'managed in situ' by annual inspection and maintaining a good paint covering.
Celotex ceiling products division was purchased by Ceiling Products & Gypsum Wallboard (BPB) of the U.K. beginning in 1999
Celotex roofing products division was purchased by Certainteed Corporation (Valley Forge PA) beginning in 1999
 Certainteed Ceilings, Adagio fiberglass/mineral fiber composite acoustical ceiling product MSDS, web search 11/22/2011, original source: certainteed.com/resources/Adagio_MSDS_2010.pdf
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 Wikipedia provided background information about some topics discussed at this website provided this citation is also found in the same article along with a " retrieved on" date. NOTE: because Wikipedia entries are fluid and can be amended in real time, we cite the retrieval date of Wikipedia citations and we do not assert that the information found there is necessarily authoritative. Web search 6/30/12: "Ceiling Tiles"
 Brian Greer, "History of Tin Ceilings", Brian Greer's Tin Ceilings, web search 6/30/12, original source: http://www.tinceiling.com/company/historytin.php
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(USDOL) (1986). In Occupational Exposure to Asbestos: Tremolite,
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 BPB America Inc.,
5301 West Cypress St., Suite 300,
Tampa, FL 33607,
Web: www.bpb-na.com. Acoustic ceiling tile & accessories.
 Affa Tile Company
No. 1116/8, Poonamalee High Road, Opposite Hotel Shan Royal, Koyambedu
Chennai, Tamil Nadu - 600 107, India, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org website: http://www.affatiles.com Tel:044-24757498, 044 - 24757497
 Made-in-China.com, online sevice to connect buyers with product suppliers in China, web search 6/30/12
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Asbestos Identification and Testing References
Asbestos Identification, Walter C.McCrone, McCrone Research Institute, Chicago, IL.1987 ISBN 0-904962-11-3. Dr. McCrone literally "wrote the book" on asbestos identification procedures which formed
the basis for current work by asbestos identification laboratories.
Stanton, .F., et al., National Bureau of Standards Special Publication 506: 143-151
Pott, F., Staub-Reinhalf Luft 38, 486-490 (1978) cited by McCrone
Asbestos NESHAP Adequately Wet Guidance, EPA340/1-90-019, December 1990, U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, Stationary Source Compliance Division, Washington, DC 20460,original web source: http://www.epa.gov/region04/air/asbestos/awet.htm
Asbestos products and their history and use in various building materials such as asphalt and vinyl flooring includes discussion which draws on Asbestos, Its Industrial Applications, D.V. Rosato, engineering consultant, Newton, MA, Reinhold Publishing, 1959 Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 59-12535 (out of print, text and images available at InspectAPedia.com).
"Handling Asbestos-Containing roofing material - an update", Carl Good, NRCA Associate Executive Director, Professional Roofing, February 1992, p. 38-43
EPA Guidance for Controlling Asbestos-Containing Materials in buildings, NIAST, National Institute on Abatement Sciences & Technology, [republishing EPA public documents] 1985 ed., Exposure Evaluation Division, Office of Toxic Substances, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington,D.C. 20460
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: email@example.com. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
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