Popcorn ceilings got that name because they look like small pieces of popcorn are glued to the ceiling. Their main benefit was it was fire retardant, and they made the room quieter. The main cost is the “popcorn” was made of asbestos, and if the fibers are liberated and inhaled or ingested, it could cause a type of cancer – mesothelioma.
What is Asbestos? Why is it Dangerous?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber that’s light, strong, heat- and fire-resistant. It’s dangerous when fibers float in the air, where they can be inhaled or ingested. The fibers don’t break down in the body and can cause different types of cancer.
The most deadly cancers are mesotheliomas. They can occur in lung and chest cavity linings (pleural mesothelioma), abdomen and abdominal organ linings (peritoneal mesothelioma), and heart linings (pericardial mesothelioma).
What are Popcorn Ceilings?
Popcorn ceilings were very popular in homes from 1950 to about 1990. This textured coating was sprayed onto ceilings, allowed to dry, and could be painted. Not all popcorn ceilings have asbestos, but those that do could be up to 10% asbestos.
Various bans related to asbestos-containing ceiling material started in 1973, with the last one in 1990. Companies were allowed to use their existing stock, so its application potentially continued for years.
Asbestos exposure could happen when the spray is first mixed if the ceiling deteriorates and crumbles, is sanded, and when it’s removed. Since it’s impossible to tell whether a popcorn ceiling contains asbestos just by looking at it, if you’re concerned about your ceiling’s asbestos content—or if you’re planning to get rid of your popcorn ceiling—you should have it professionally tested.
Could I Get Cancer if My Home Has Asbestos-Containing Popcorn Ceilings?
Yes, depending on the circumstances and the amount of asbestos you inhale or swallow. A 2016 article in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health describes the case of a woman who had an asbestos-containing popcorn ceiling and was later diagnosed with asbestosis (severe breathing limitations due to asbestos fibers in the lungs) and lung cancer.
The subject is described as a non-smoker who lived in an apartment with an acoustic ceiling starting in 1982. Water caused the ceiling to crumble, sag, and buckle. There was water damage beginning in 1993, which continued, on and off, until 2011.
Attempts to repair the ceiling created a wool-like substance that got onto her clothes, carpeting, and all over the apartment. The ceiling was sanded, and damaged sections were put in open garbage bags outside her door. These problems continued for more than 18 years when she moved out of the apartment in 2012.
In the early 1990s, the woman started experiencing an intermittent, productive cough, which became persistent in 2005. Five years later, she suffered a severe cough, fever, wheezing, and chest tightness and was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. In 2012, her doctors removed enlarging lung nodules, and a microscopic study is consistent with asbestosis.
Does My Home Have an Asbestos-Containing Popcorn Ceiling?
If your home is the right age and your ceiling appears to have a popcorn texture, it might contain asbestos. You should have it professionally tested. If it has asbestos, you should have it addressed by an asbestos abatement company. This is not a do-it-yourself project. Removing the ceiling can cause the problem you want to avoid – asbestos fibers in the air that can be inhaled or ingested.
- Encasement: Covering it with another ceiling or another physical barrier to prevent fibers from falling into the room
- Encapsulation: Sealing the ceiling with paint or another binder
- Removal: Although this requires more work and cost, the problem ends. You need not worry about asbestos if you remodel your home, it becomes damaged in a storm or fire, and disclosing it when you sell the house is no longer an issue
Choose a reputable, reliable abatement company. If you hire one that doesn’t comply with applicable safety requirements, you may end up with a house full of asbestos dust and bags of waste you can’t safely throw away.
If you or a loved one has an asbestos-related disease because you installed, repaired, or lived with popcorn ceilings, you may be entitled to compensation for the harm you suffer.
We fight hard to protect your legal rights. To reach our Louisville office, call toll-free at 855-385-9532. You may also complete our contact form for a free initial consultation.