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Asbestos-containing ceiling tiles:
Some but not all old ceiling tiles contain asbestos.
Here we discuss how to recognize & handle ceiling tiles that may contain asbestos. We describe the appearance, ingredients, years of manufacture, history, and producers of various types of ceiling tiles & coverings as an aid in determining whether or not a particular ceiling covering or tile is likely to contain asbestos.
This document assists building buyers, owners or inspectors who need to identify asbestos materials (or probable-asbestos) in buildings by simple
We provide photographs and descriptive text of asbestos insulation and other asbestos-containing products
to permit identification of definite, probable, or possible asbestos materials in buildings.
We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.
Asbestos-containing Ceiling Tiles: Examples of materials that might contain asbestos fibers
Asbestos may have been used in the ceiling tile tiles and in lay-in ceiling tiles in suspended ceilings in the tile body or in paper facing or backing on the ceiling tiles; asbestos was also a common ingredient in some mastic adhesives used for glue-up application of ceiling tiles.
Asbestos-containing ceiling tiles are not considered friable but are soft enough that unnecessary sampling or disturbance may release asbestos dust and particles.
In addition, some ceiling tiles such as used in suspended ceilings may be holding a collection of asbestos-containing dust and debris (from other sources) on the hidden upper side of the tile.
In these articles we explain how to recognize and handle asbestos-suspect ceiling tiles or other ceiling or wall or building sheathing products,
Chrysotile asbestos, one of the most commonly-used asbestos fibers, was used in production of some ceiling materials. Amosite asbestos, also a widely-used form of asbestos, was used in some ceiling tiles as well as in roof and floor tiles.
Crocidolite asbestos was also used in ceiling tile production. Ceilings were also covered with cement-asbestos products as a fire barrier in boiler rooms and similar locations.
A History of Ceiling Tiles: age, appearance, types, materials, manufacturers
Certainly not all ceiling tiles contain or ever contained asbestos. Knowing the the history of ceiling tiles and their various ingredients, combined with the size, brand (usually unknown), visual appearance and location of ceiling tiles, and adding the age of the building or of the ceiling tile installation itself can often quickly decide whether special handling or further investigation is warranted when demolishing, remodeling, or otherwise disturbing a ceiling.
But asbestos fibers were used in some acoustic asbestos ceiling tiles, often amphibole asbestos such as amosite, crocidolite, anthrophylite, tremolite, and actinolite, with amosite among the most commonly-found.
Modern ceiling products do not contain asbestos.
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.
Ancient: Medieval era: "acoustic" ceiling tiles were installed at the Cleeve Abbey,England. Image above left, Wikimedia Commons
Mediterranean homes: terra cotta tiles set across wood ceiling framing, over which roofing tiles were installed. Modern sizes: 2' x 2' or 2' x 4' including panels for suspended ceilings.
1790: plaster ceilings, plaster applied to wood lath
1860: founding of Armstrong Corporation. "Corkboard led to fiberboard, fiberboard led to ceiling board, cork tile and linoleum led to vinyl floors." 
1885: beginning in Brooklyn tin or aluminum ceilings were popularized in North America, replacing ornate plaster work or used to cover cracked, damaged plaster ceilings.
"Tin ceilings, consisting of painted, embossed tin plate panels are almost uniquely North American, although they were introduced into Australia and South Africa in the late 19th century."
Aluminum ceiling tiles & panels were also produced at about the same time.
1953: National Gypsum recommends acoustic plaster mixers wear respirators
1967: U.S. Gypsum ceiling tiles, reported produced using ingredients that included asbestos from 1967-1976
1970: The Celotex Corporation of America introduced an isocyanurate foam ceiling tile  (not an asbestos-containing product). Asbestos widely used as fireproofing in roofs, floors, ceilings.
Note: however because of public resistance to purchase or use of ACM products, many manufacturers discontinued of asbestos in various products, particularly after 1976. Check the individual product MSDS for confirmation of its content. - Ed. In this year Great Britain banned the sale or re-use of white asbestos. 
While an expert lab test using polarized light microscopy may be needed to identify the specific type of
asbestos fiber, or to identify the presence of asbestos in air or dust samples, many asbestos-containing building products
not only are obvious and easy to recognize, but since there were not other look-alike products that were not asbestos, a visual identification of this material can be virtually a certainty in many cases.
Which ceiling tile brands are reported to have contained asbestos? Which ceiling tiles are asbestos free?
Insulating board panel and ceiling tile and panel manufacturers produced a range of products, many of which may contain asbestos, but other ceiling and wall covering & building sheathing products made of organic fibers, wood fibers, cane fibers generally do not contain asbestos.
Our photo (above) shows an antique plaster and lath ceiling in a pre-1900 home.
Asbestos was used in ceiling products at least as early as the 1800's and continued into the 1980's or possibly later depending on the country of origin or use of these products.
List of Ceiling Tile Manufacturers noting those that did or did not produce ceiling products containing asbestos
Manufacturers whose ceiling tiles were known to contain asbestos or are likely to contain asbestos are indicated in bold font in the list below.
Affa Tile Company - supplier of terra cotta ceiling tiles 
Armstrong ceiling tiles & suspended ceilings do not and have not ever contained asbestos.
Boise Cascade ceiling tiles & other building products - Asbestos was used in some Boise Cascade products such as gaskets and asbestos sheeting; as of 9/11/2017 we have not found an authoritative source asserting that these ceiling tiles contained asbestos
Chicago Metallic suspended ceilings - [asbestos use not confirmed, dates pending - Ed.]
Chinese ceiling tile product manufacturers, various; - [asbestos use not confirmed, dates pending - Ed.]
Note: tracking down the manufacturer of a ceiling tile product made in China can be difficult. Our research (6/30/12) found more than 150 companies in China listed as producing ceiling tiles & coverings for export, using a wide range of materials including aluminum, calcium silicate, fiber cement [??], magnesium oxide, plastic, PVC (most widely used), acoustic materials, gypsum, mineral fibers, plasterboard, veneer-faced OSB panels, MDF, melamine-faced medium-density fiberboard MDF, chipboard, hardboard & similar wood products, porcelain tile, polycarbonate, and more.
The ceiling tile products listed below have been confirmed to be asbestos free.
Older Ceiling Tiles that Did Not Contain Asbestos
Armstrong Ceiling tiles: according to the company, Asbestos, in any form, is not and never has been used in the manufacture of Armstrong ceiling tiles. - source: Armstrong U.K., "FAQs - OTHERS TECHNICAL SUBJECT" [PDF article] retrieved 2016/06/14, original source: http://www.armstrong.co.uk/commclgeu/eu1/uk/gb/FAQ_other.html
Armstrong World Industries
2500 Columbia Avenue
PH - 877 276 7876, option 1,2,3
Modern Ceiling Tiles Do Not Contain Asbestos
Modern ceiling products do not contain asbestos. Using Certainteed as an example, [www.certainteed.com] you can obtain an MSDS (Material Data Safety Sheet) for each of the company's products.
Common modern ceiling product ingredients include fibrous glass wool, urea formaldehyde resin, and fiberboard products contain slag wool, starch, cellulose [wood fibers], perlite, crystalline silica, and clay.
Watch out: It's worth noting that even modern building products can present health hazards if they are not handled properly. For example crystalline silica can cause nose, throat, and lung irritation. 
How to Recognize Asbestos suspect ceiling tiles
Some acoustic ceiling tiles contain asbestos. If renovation is planned it may be smart to simply handle this material as if it contained
In these photographs of older square ceiling tiles the photo (below left) shows a smooth ceiling tile and the second photo
(below right) an acoustic ceiling tile with its characteristic pattern of holes.
Both of these products might contain asbestos fibers, though the principal material is usually
The larger suspended ceiling segment, 2'x4' in size (photo above right), was pushed aside to show the older layers of ceiling materials above.
suspended ceiling tile, if made of fiberglass or cellulose is not a likely asbestos fiber source.
Our concern in this particular instance
was that the entire cavity above the suspended ceiling was being used as an air conditioning return air plenum, exposing all of the
building HVAC system and occupants to whatever particles were released by materials in the cavity, including possibly asbestos from the
older layer of acoustic ceiling tiles.
The remediation contractor removed all of these layers to expose (and clean) the concrete ceiling above prior
to installing a new suspended ceiling.
More Asbestos-Suspect Ceiling Tile Photographs
Our perforated acoustic ceiling tile photo above shows that these particular asbestos-containing ceiling materials were also sometimes applied to a vertical wall.
Below we show a different pattern of asbestos-suspect ceiling tiles found in a government building we examined in Poughkeepsie, NY.
As you can see from the photographs shown here, these acoustic ceiling tiles over a wet area can support mold growth.
Additional asbestos-in-ceiling tiles questions and replies are in the FAQs section of this article.
Question: do these suspended ceiling tiles contain asbestos?
Was wondering if you could tell if these are likely asbestos ceiling tiles? The building was made in 1985 though I don't know the age of the tiles. They say "CON SAFE" on the back... They are in my workplace, a government building. - B.B.
While the current 1999 EPA notice basically retracted asbestos bans in the U.S., as we noted in the introduction to this article, because of consumer resistance to purchasing asbestos-containing material (ACM) for housing or office finish products, it's not likely that an office put up in 1985 used ACM.
Unfortunately, a responsible and reliable reply is that one can't know for sure when a material was made nor what it contains simply from your photo - you'd need to have a little sample of the material tested by a certified asbestos testing lab for a definitive answer.
Question: is cleaning up dust after improper asbestos removal dangerous
How dangerous is it to clean up an area after asbestos tiles were removed without proper equipment or disposal? What is required to be safe during clean-up? - Darlene 1/21/2013
Reply: quite possibly
Darlene: in my OPINION the answer is at least potentially YES.
If asbestos containing material, particularly friable materials such as ceiling tiles, or any ACM that was removed in a manner that created dust was removed without proper dust containment and follow-up testing, there could be high enough levels of asbestos in remaining dust in the building to be a hazard to occupants.
For example, running an ordinary household (non-HEPA) vacuum cleaner, or even a HEPA rated vacuum if it leaks, would send that asbestos-containing dust into the air - where occupants may indeed breathe it.
In my own experience I've encountered this problem a number of times and often follow-up testing confirmed that further professional cleaning was needed.
Provided that there is an established need (and thus justification of the expense) for an asbestos dust cleanup, a professional will set up dust containment to keep other building areas safe from dust, use a negative air machine as part of that containment, then typically s/he will HEPA vacuum and damp wipe the building surfaces.
A follow-up test by a professional confirms that the cleanup was successful and that the containment system also worked.
Question: do these 16x32" ceiling tiles in a 1941 home contain asbestos?
We are buying a house built in 1941 that has 16"x32" ceiling panels glued to the rafters in every room (photo attached).
Leaks from the roof have damaged many of them and we need to know whether they contain asbestos before we disturb the area. Are asbestos testing kits from a hardware store a legitimate way to go? - C.H. 4/18/2013
No one should pretend that they could reliably identify or exclude asbestos-containing material in your building or its ceiling from just your photo, but I certainly understand and appreciate the question.
There are certainly ceiling tiles that do contain asbestos, and others even of the same era (up to the 80's) that do not. Sometimes one can look at the material by eye and see that it is a wood fiber product; but if you don't know, leave it alone until you do.
From the dimensions you gave and from your photo, I'm not 100% sure you are looking at acoustic ceiling tiles, though I agree that the beveled edges in a closer look at your picture look like glue-up or staple-up ceiling tiles not plaster. For comparison see PLASTER BULGES & PILLOWS.
As you suspect possible asbestos I suggest:
First: do not make a dusty mess and don't perform demolition nor run vacuum cleaners (unless HEPA rated) before you know what materials are present
Second: as demolition is required, you might want to contact a certified asbestos testing laboratory for sample collection advice and processing - typically it's a $50. or less cost.
I can't comment on an over-the-counter asbestos test kit - as honestly I just don't know what you were looking-at. Identification of asbestos dust or fibers in materials requires two kinds of microscopic examination; if the test kit is simply a container for a sample, along with safe sampling instructions, and that material is sent to a certified lab, perhaps that's fine.
If there is access to the ceiling from above and if you can safely enter there and safely lift insulation for inspection, check, to see if those bulged or pillowed segments of the ceiling are visible from their upper side as plasterboard. [If you find vermiculite ceiling in the area don't disturb it because that may be an asbestos hazard even if the ceiling proves not to be. Vermiculite building insulation (VERMICULITE INSULATION)was often poured into previously un-insulated ceilings of homes from the 1940's.]
Keep us posted if you have the material tested or if you are able to explore the extent of water-related damage above this ceiling - what you find will assist other readers.
Question: Do You Think These Ceiling Tiles Contain Asbestos ? [photo attached]
Do you think this contains asbestos? - Anonymous
Your photos show what look like 9-inch or possibly 12-inch brown fiberboard acoustic ceiling tiles. While the predominant material in these ceilings is usually wood fibers, indeed up to the 1980's many such ceilings contained asbestos as well.
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately find where there are asbestos containing materials (ACM), presumed-asbestos containing materials (PACM), or what might also be called "asbestos-suspect materials".
That said, here are some things to consider:
For safety it makes sense to treat presumed-asbestos materials or PACM as if they indeed contained asbestos, meaning apply the same guidelines: leave intact materials alone if possible, encapsulate the material for added protection, and if materials are damaged, friable, or are likely to be disturbed by normal building activities, bring in a professional asbestos abatement contractor who, after confirming that the materials are asbestos-containing, will handle the removal or encapsulation with professional dust control, removal, cleaning.
For a single damaged ceiling tile such as in your photo, I'm doubtful that calling a professional asbestos abatement company will be justified, but if you treat the material as Presumed Asbestos Containing Material (PACM) that means using appropriate methods for cleanup and then encapsulation or covering of the damaged section.
Question: Do you think this Canadian acoustic ceiling tile is an asbestos material? I have chest pains since taking down this dusty mess.
Hi i think these were installed in the mid 80's or even 90's. They are really dusty when removed them.
I removed them all about a month ago, sometimes i have some breathing chest mild problems but i think from painting and general reno dust.
Are you familiar with these tiles in Ontario?
- M. 11/28/12
The tiles in your ceiling by dimension and general appearance could contain asbestos;
In my OPINION, even if the tiles didn't contain asbestos, exposing yourself to a high dose of dust can easily result in respiratory irritation and on occasion other health issues from rodent, insect, or other particles.
If you never checked with your doctor you should do so. I'd do that even before testing the material for asbestos.
Question: can we paint our asbestos-suspect ceiling tiles or do they have to be covered over?
We have square ceiling tiles in living room and bedroom that were probably installed in the 60's or 70's. The ceiling has been painted with a latex-type paint.
There are no friable areas, everything seems intact and covered with a layer of paint. Does this painting effectively prevent presumed asbestos fibers in the tiles (based on age) from entering the air and creating a hazard? Or should the ceilings be furred out and covered? - Edward, 12/3/2012
If the ceiling is painted, not friable, not damaged, not in an area likely to be damaged, it's best to leave it alone. You don't need to install a new ceiling layer over it.
Additional asbestos-in-ceiling tiles questions and replies are in the FAQs section of this article.
How to Remove Asbestos or Asbestos-suspect Ceiling Tiles Safely
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
 "Board of Education for the School District of the City of Detroit v. Celotex, et al., Circuit Court of Wayne County, Michigan, No. 84-429634-ND"
 Armstrong Corporation, web search 6/22/12, original source: http://www.armstrong.rs/commclgeu/eu1/uk/rs/FAQ_other.html, [Copy on file as Armstrong_Ceil_Asbestos.pdf]
 Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC, "Carpenters and Mesothelioma", Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC, 135 Delaware Ave, 5th Floor, Buffalo, NY 14202-2415 (716) 849-0701. Web search 6/22/12, original source: http://www.mesotheliomacarpenter.com/carpenters-asbestos-exposure/ceiling-tile/ [Copy on file as LiIpsitz_Asbestos.pdf]
 INACHI forum discussion about asbestos ceiling tiles, web search 6/22/12, original source: http://www.nachi.org/forum/f18/asbestos-ceiling-tiles-14709/ [Copy on file as Inach_Ceil_Asbestos.pdf]
 Celotex [UK] History, Celotex Insulation Specialists, web search 6/30/12, original source: http://www.celotex.co.uk/celotex-history [Copy on file as Celotex_History_UK.pdf ]
 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
 Armstrong Corporation, "Corporate History: a Historical Summary", web search 6/30/12, original source: http://www.armstrong.com/corporate/corporate-history.html
 "Ceilings Pressed in Time", Old House Journal, web search 6/30/12, original source: http://www.oldhousejournal.com/ceillings_pressed_in_time/magazine/1070
 Steven Mlynarek, Morton Corn, Charles Blake, "Asbestos Exposure of Building Maintenance Personnel", Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 23, 213–224 (1996) ARTICLE NO. 0045, http://library.certh.gr/libfiles/PDF/GEN-PAPYR-4810-ASBESTOS-by-MLYNAREK
 National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (1989). In NIOSH Manual of Analytical Methods (P. M. Eller, Ed.),
Method 7400. NIOSH, Washington, DC.
 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA—Green Book) (1990). In Managing Asbestos in Place: A Building Owners Guide to Operations and Maintenance Programs for Asbestos-Containing
 U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (USDOL) (1994). In Occupational Exposure to Asbestos:
Final Rule, FR Vol. 59, No. 153:40964–41162. Materials, Report 2OT-2003. USEPA, Washington, DC.
 U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(USDOL) (1986). In Occupational Exposure to Asbestos: Tremolite,
Anthophyllite, and Actinolite: Final Rule, FR Vol. 51,
 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) (1990). In Environmental Asbestos Assessment Manual, Superfund Method for the Determination of Asbestos in Ambient Air, Part 2, Technical Background Document, Report EPA/540/2-90/005 b. USEPA, Washington, DC
 Ceiling - Frequently Asked Questions, Armstrong Corporation, web search 6/30/12, original source: http://www.armstrong.com/resclgam/na/ceilings/en/us/article17697.html
 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: email@example.com 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
 "Directive 2003/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 March 2003 amending Council Directive 83/477/EEC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work". Publications Office of the European Union. 27 March 2003 Web search 6/30/12, original source: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32003L0018:EN:NOT,
 H. M. Murray, testimony before the Departmental Committee on Compensation for Industrial Diseases "Minutes of Evidence, Appendices and Index", 1907. p. 127
 D. Auribault, "Note sur l'Hygiène et la Sécurité des Ouvriers dans les Filatures et Tissages d'Amianté (On hygiene and security of the workers in the spinning and weaving of asbestos)" in Le Bulletin de l'Inspection du Travail, 1906, pp 120–132.
 Wikipedia entry on Asbestos and various citations from that article, web search 6/30/12, original source: en.wikipedia.org "Asbestos"
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 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, ROSATO 1959, 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
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