Asbestos and Popcorn Ceilings???

tigerbrJanuary 30, 2012

Hi. I am new to the forum and would appreciate the straight scoop on this subject. Recently I have become aware of this issue and believe me...I will never make the same mistake. Several years ago I helped a friend remodel a house that was built in the 1970s. Not sure the exact year but somewhere between 1975-1979 would be my guess. Well I was young and stupid and did not realize there were hazards. I did not wear a mask and I scraped down a popcorn ceiling in a very large interior room. In addition I used a little hand jack hammer to remove square tiles that were attached by a very strong glue or adhesive in the living room. These tiles looked like little squares of real wood but I don't know what they were made of for sure.

So now I just became aware of how common asbestos is in popcorn ceiling and also found that some tile and adhesive or glue may contain asbestos. So I breathed in plenty of dust over the course of a few days without a mask between the scraping of the ceiling and the grinding of the floors to remove the tile which was extremely difficult because of the strength of the adhesive.

Please give me your opinions on the damage I may have done to my health. Here are some questions I have:

Were all popcorn ceilings made in the early to mid 1970s made from asbestos? If not, were the majority made with or without asbestos?

Does anyone know if the little wood square tiles common for that time period contain asbestos and/or did the glues/adhesives used to secure them contain asbestos?

If these materials contained asbestos would breathing in this dusty environment have done irrepairable damage to my lungs and any other part of my body?

Thanks for any responses. I was young and stupid back then and just didn't know there was danger. I will be so careful going forward but am having big time anxiety about what happened in the past.

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Perhaps this is a gross mischaracterization of the dangers of asbestos, but I believe this is like worrying about lung cancer because you smoked during college.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 8:06AM
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I agree with civ IV fan. This subject has been covered quite a few times before. Where did you find that popcorn ceilings had asbestos? Most didn't. Most asbestos related illness result from prolonged exposure not a one time thing. Did you quit driving because you could have an accident? Never fly. Please, life is full of risks, spending your time stressing over the little ones is probably more damaging to your health than anything else.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 9:39AM
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Yes, there was asbestos in many parts of older houses, including (sometimes) popcorn ceilings. Since you removed the material, you will never know. Asking strangers on the internet to evaluate possible health issues or possible asbestos presence after a few years is not productive. Rather than worrying, maybe consult a doctor?
Good luck.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 3:13AM
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the reason we have such serious regulations on the usage and disposal of hazardous materials such as lead and asbestos is because most of these materials are removed by people who do this day in and day out for 30 years. since the dawn of industrialization, chronic exposure to risks has killed many, many workers and is the reason d'etre for organizations like OSHA.

so even though asbestos regs seem draconian, they certainly save the lives of many contractors and blue-collar workers who encounter this stuff on a daily or weekly basis.

the flip side of this, however, is that these regs cause confusion about risks among regular citizens. put technically, regular citizens confuse chronic exposure risks with acute risks. for example, if you eat red snapper every other day for the next 20 years, this is a chronic exposure and we can associate certain outcomes with that behavior - an increase in mercury levels in blood, a drop in IQ, etc. however, if you eat red snapper once in your life or once, this is an acute exposure and we know that there is virtually no risk associated with acute exposure to red snapper or any fish.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 9:41AM
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Asbestos was banned for use in popcorn ceilings in 1977. So the ceiling you worked on may or may not have had asbestos.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 4:26PM
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Tiger, I hope you find the responses here somewhat reassuring. I hope you're still checking back too!

Regardless of how small the chances were, it is not a good feeling to realize the risks you took even if you got away without injury (I used to drink and drive when I was young and stupid).

I think the smart course now would be first, to realize you cannot change the exposure you may have had. But to recognize it and its possible outcomes is a good idea. You are on the watch, no doubt, for the signs of many illnesses - chest pain and angina, trouble with eating or digesting, blood in the wrong places, pain in the wrong places,and symptoms of a stroke. Stay alert to how you are feeling, keep track of symptoms that emerge and report them to your doctor sooner rather than later if they prove consistent.

Just add it to the things you are vigilant about, healthwise. But do take heart from what's been said here that the chances are minimal that there was damage, and realize there are probably many bigger risks in your life than that one - as there are in all of ours.

Karin L

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 4:25PM
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Nothng to worry about.

Those people who developed lung cancer from asbestos exposure were:
1 - Heavy smokers for years
2 - Had several years of extremely heavy exposure to the asbestos. They were spraying it inside ships, working in factories making asbestos panelling or mining it.

3 - Lived with someone who came home heavily contaminated with asbestos for years.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 9:17PM
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I scraped asbestos cement shingles with my dad back in the 1970s as well. No respiratory problems in either of us. I plan on repainting my new (old) house's asbestos shingles. I will wear a mask this time. Why worry about what you can't change?

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 1:44PM
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I heard that even among asbestos miner, only those that smoked as well, and among them only 1/3 of them developed cancer.

If you have a predisposition to getting cancer, then you should be worried, but then again odds are that you'll get cancer regardless.

Besides, the "Damage" is done. Nothing you can do now other than limit your exposure to airborne carcinogins. SO don;t smoke, avoid 2nd hand smoke (getting easier ..finally with most states passing public smoking laws), avoid other toxic chemicals. But you should be doing these things anyway.

Again, it's a componding effect. Compounded with other hazards, it present an added risk.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 10:45AM
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I agree with most of your points, particularly that industrial exposure to asbestos and smoking is a quite deadly combination. However, non-smoking miners also got cancer, as well as a number of their family members who were simply exposed to asbestos dust brought home on work clothes. About all one can say is: 1) limit asbestos exposure, and 2) that different people have different outcomes from asbestos exposure, and there are many factors, likely including genetic predisposition.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 6:41PM
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Had to post because everyone on here is posting such *dangerous* responses.

Note: a mask won't protect you against asbestos - the most dangerous parts are so small they go through a mask. That hazmat suit and breathing gear are used for any exposure because asbestos is no joke.

When inhaled, even in small amounts, asbestos fibers can cause a range of severe diseases including lung cancer, asbestosis (an irreversible scarring of the lungs similar to emphysema), and mesothelioma (a cancer of the chest and abdominal linings which causes tumors which grow, spread rapidly and are 100% fatal). Exposure to asbestos may also increase the risk of other cancers such as those of the larynx (throat) and of the gastrointestinal tract (stomach). The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increases with the number of fibers inhaled. The symptoms of these diseases do not usually appear until about 20 to 30 years after the first exposure to asbestos.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 5:22PM
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alpha - Yes a mask can protect you - a $20 3M mask (linked below) with P100 filters, is approved to stop asbestos (in addition to airborne lead and many other particulates.

I agree that asbestos is no joke, but there are measures you can take, short of a hazmat suit, to protect yourself.

Here is a link that might be useful: 3M mask

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 11:55AM
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Every time I think about asbestos I think about the insulation around the steam pipes in the house I grew up in. My father put a swing in the basement, and to his annoyance one of our favorite things to do was swing high enough so we could kick the insulation and see a cloud of dust "explode." That was over 30 years ago, probably closer to 40... So far so good. More recently I cut out my kitchen floor which had 3 layers of linoleum, without knowing at the time that there might be asbestos in the glue. Asbestos is something I take seriously, but I have faith (or hope) that it was much more of a concern for people working with it regularly.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 1:01PM
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