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MysteryWhiteBoy 01-21-2013 12:52 AM

asbestos in popcorn ceiling (new air return for furnace)
i'm in a bit of a quandary and would appreciate some feedback. long story short(ish):

i hired an HVAC company to install a new furnace and install an air return in the main part of my house (the old furnace drew air from under the house, which isn't up to current code). problem is, i have a house with popcorn ceilings. i insisted there was a strong possibility there would be asbestos in them. they insisted that the way to handle this would be to simply put a drop cloth on the floor to catch the debris caused by cutting a hole in my ceiling to put in this air return. they apparently "did this kind of thing all the time" and were "allowed" to remove a small amount of asbestos. everything about this felt wrong and i should have listened to my gut, but i assumed (wrongly!) that they're the professionals and know what they're doing. so i let them go ahead and cut a 20"x30" hole in my ceiling. not only did they allow a good portion of the debris to fall directly onto my hardwood floor (not on their "drop cloth" as they promised), they also swept up this debris using one of my brooms.

after complaining profusely to the company directly, i got them to test some of this debris for asbestos. they were "100% certain" there wouldn't be any found. well, guess what? it's 2% chrysotile. now i'm told it should be fine so long as i don't disturb it any further. meanwhile, a gaping 20"x30" vent that draws air from my house right alongside popcorn ceiling that was disturbed blows air throughout my house. the furnace was used a few times since this was done last week, but i put a stop to that as soon as i knew exactly what i was dealing with.

1) should i stop using the furnace until i have the rest of the popcorn ceiling safely removed and the air tested for asbestos?

2) do i have any legal (or otherwise) recourse for this company's clear negligence? yes, i allowed them to cut into my ceiling, but only based on the information they gave me.

p.s. - please feel free to move this to the appropriate section if it belongs somewhere else...

joecaption 01-21-2013 01:45 AM

Good luck with that one.
My whole family on my mothers side worked in the mines where it comes from.
My grandfather that worked there for 40 years died when he was 95 years old
of bone cancer.
All my uncles that also worked there for at least 25 years until the mines closed are all still alive with no heath issues.
So if you think the tiny bit your dealing with is an issue I feel your waisting time worrying about it.
If it makes you feel better spending thousands of dollars and losing the use of your house for about a week, go for it.
A simple coat of paint over it would seal it and do the same thing.

Clayton 381 02-02-2013 09:01 PM

Good day. I utterly share your concern, as I most likely in a somewhat similar situation. I bought a house built in 1983, that is full of popcorn ceilings. I never heard of them before, and the home inspector did not say anything bad about them. We had a light fixture go bad over the washer, and I had to enlarge the whole with a sawzall to get the new fixture in. I took out maybe a handful of material. This was four years ago, and I do not even recall if I wore a mask. I also threaded a lamp bolt into the living room which might have dropped some.

Last year, to my horror, I learned that Asbestos was added to popcorn ceilings in the 70s, and was used into the 80s. I feel absolutely sick about what I could have done to my family, if this has been circulating through the house. I have found two types of websites on the subject: Lawyers looking for a payday, and industry types who downplay the risk.
Some websites even advise that one exposure is too many, well, WTF does that mean! If you would like to communicate further to compare notes, I would welcome the opportunity.

MissKat 02-02-2013 10:03 PM

They outlawed asbestos in 78. We had the popcorn ceiling in our 1980 house tested in case they were using up the leftover stock. We were negative which may ease Clayton's mind. Not sure what to say to the other case.

Pawl 02-07-2013 11:31 AM

I used to work as an insulator years ago and my boss who taught me the trade died from Mesothelioma. He worked with asbestos daily on the job for years. I was told the asbestos fibers get in your lungs and attach. Years of having these fibers attach inside your lungs and not leaving through the bodies natural processes created breathing problems. I am almost 60 and have never had any issues with my lungs. There were so many products made with asbestos back then that I think the laws were made with the worst case scenario in mind.My metal ducts in my attic have asbestos wrapped around the outside of the ducts. I was told if you dont disturb it you will be fine. I have slowly removed that material from my attic over time. Personally I dont believe a few exposures to it is going to be life threatening. I never worked with the same material as my boss because by the time I started it was outlawed. I am no expert by any means but years ago I had my popcorn ceilings tested and they have asbestos in them. Over time I have removed all of it in each room and resprayed ceilings. I put down a thick visqueen on the floor with thinner plastic taped on the walls,brought my garden hose in using fine spray to dampen the material so when I scraped it off with a wide putty knife on a broom handle it had no dust in it. I would wet it and wait for it to soak in. I rolled it all up in the thick visqueen and properly disposed of it. With all the other stuff we breathe today a few exposures to asbestos are probably the least of our worries. When I would vacuum up any of the dust after scraping the ceilings I would go outside and carefully dump the vacuum bag contents into a small trash liner,soak the empty vacuum bag in a bucket of warm water to remove any asbestos dust. Thats as good as it gets without paying thousands of dollars to have some company supposedly do it properly. Life is short and thats a lot of money to pay a company that could go towards some delicious pizza. Whatever is still exposed in your house from that hole that was cut I would just seal/paint any exposed edges so it can't chip and fall over time.

stoner529 02-09-2013 11:09 AM

Odds are most of your popcorn has asbestos. Left undisturbed is no threat to you..

The dust in the air could cause a health problem since every persons body is different...I can't tell you if it will in your case or not. Are they negligent? Absolutely...As a professional that is cutting into your ceiling, they should have tested it. People try to cut corners.

Here is the bottom line...

As a former business owner, I was not certified to properly remove asbestos. Lets say a homeowner had it tested and found that it contained asbestos..Who does it come back on if for some reason the homeowner develops any sort of respiratory problems? Usually the business that did the work. I refused to remove popcorn in one clients house because he said it was tested. He was concerned about his new born, yet he wanted me to remove the popcorn for only .80 a sq ft. I absolutely refused. He didn't want to pay the higher price to have a proper abatement.. Is a little extra cost really worth your health? We seem to always take corners just to save a buck..

You can contact a lawyer and ask their opinion on the matter...I'm sure they can find something to hold them responsible in some way.

Daniel Holzman 02-09-2013 12:06 PM

Asbestos has been discussed repeatedly on this forum over the past few years. Opinions range from "deadly product" to "way overblown". Objective, actionable information is hard to find.

The EPA has a decent website that discusses asbestos removal, worth a visit. You may want to do a little research on the history and use of asbestos, a lot of people are under the mistaken impression that asbestos is "illegal", this is NOT THE CASE, asbestos is still widely used, even in the United States. Curiously, the word "asbestos" is not even legally defined, it turns out that the EPA accepted term is "asbestosform fiber", since there are dozens of different minerals that can be processed into thin, long, mineral fibers (commonly called asbestos), and used in an amazing variety of products ranging from brake linings to roof coverings to insulation.

As to whether or not you can sue a contractor who you believe was negligent, that is a legal matter way beyond a do it yourself chat room. Whether or not exposure to the particular asbestos found in your house is of concern, that is a medical issue well beyond a chat room. I suggest you visit a doctor who specializes in asbestos matters if you are concerned, similarly you may want to hire a lawyer who specializes in asbestos, clearly your perogative.

Anti-wingnut 02-09-2013 12:32 PM


No single mineral is asbestos. Asbestos is actually a whole slew of fibrous minerals of the serpentine or amphibole groups. All are the product of metamorphism in a hydrous environment of mafic to ultramafic (high to very high in iron and magnesium, with relatively lesser amounts of silicon) rocks. A common metamorphic environment for the genesis of these rocks would be sea floor metamorphism of olivine rich layers in the lower levels of an oceanic crust.

South eastern Canada was or is the major producing country of chrysotile asbestos. Other areas produce asbestos derived from amphiboles such as those in the anthophyllite, actinolite and tremolite families. Many industrialized countries have entirely banned asbestos. Canada has maintained that there is a fundamental difference in how chrysotile and amphibole asbestos affect the body, and a out right ban on chrysotile is not warranted.

The generally laxer view of asbestos use by Canada could also result in some markedly different legal interpretations and regulations than those common in the US

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