As late as the early 1990s, asbestos containing ceiling tiles were still used in some construction projects. It’s important to know if your home or office space has asbestos ceiling products – particularly if you’re planning to remodel. Left alone, asbestos products may not be harmful – but once they’re disturbed, they can release toxic fibers. If breathed in, asbestos fibers can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis – all fatal illnesses.
Asbestos was common in ceiling tiles, tile adhesives, dry wall, duct wrap, and ceiling texture sprays from the 1940s through the 1990s. One of the most common uses of asbestos ceiling tiles was in “drop ceilings.” Older homes may have these ceilings in kitchens and they were common in basement remodels to cover unsightly ductwork. Schools, colleges, universities and hospitals are other structures that used this type of ceiling tiles.
Offices of all types relied on cheap, fire resistant ceiling materials containing asbestos – particularly multi-story structures. As a rule of thumb, the older the structure, the greater the risk that asbestos-containing tiles were used in the ceiling construction. In addition to ceiling products, there are many other construction materials that may contain asbestos that can cause disease.
The Dangers of Asbestos Ceiling Tiles and Materials
Since the early 1990s, asbestos has largely been abandoned by the construction industry, but not because it’s been completely outlawed. In fact, the EPA has tried several times to completely block the use of asbestos-containing products in all industries, but big business interests have blocked the legislation time and again – putting profits before people.
When inhaled, even in relatively small doses, asbestos can permanently damage your lungs, allowing diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis to thrive. These fatal illnesses are all slow-moving, gestating over decades. You can be exposed from asbestos ceiling tiles and not realize you’ve contracted a fatal illness for 20, 30 or even up to 50 years later. Use of an asbestos dust mask won’t matter, there is no safe level of exposure.
Left intact, ceiling materials containing asbestos may not be harmful, but age, wear and tear, renovation, construction or damage from storms or any other event that cracks or loosens tiles allows asbestos fibers out into the air. These fibers are microscopic – you can’t see them and will never know you’re breathing in a toxic substance! And if you’ve been exposed and are a smoker, your condition can deteriorate even more rapidly.
Fast Facts about Asbestos
- A thumbtack pushed into a ceiling tile can release up to 6,000 toxic asbestos fibers
- Approximately 10,000 Americans die each year from asbestos related diseases
- The US death toll from asbestos exposure is estimated to top 500,000
- Despite the known risks, over 30 million pounds of asbestos are still used in the US each year
- Asbestos is the leading cause of on-the-job cancers according to World Health organization
- Even minimal exposure to certain types of asbestos can cause serious illness
What Ceiling Products May Contain Asbestos
Since the 1800s, asbestos was mined all across the US and Canada up until the last decade. Beginning in the 1940s, asbestos was increasingly used in construction products because it was cheap and extremely fire resistant. Floor and ceiling tiles, wall and electrical insulation and roofing materials commonly contained asbestos. While those that worked with asbestos are at higher risk, there are tens of thousands of people who have been exposed to asbestos riddled ceiling tiles in their homes, offices, schools and other locations.
Here are some of the brands of ceiling materials that are confirmed or suspected of containing asbestos:
Ceiling tile brands that may contain asbestos:
- Affa Tile Company
- National Gypsum Gold Bond
- Owens Corning Fiberglass
- US Gypsum
Spray product brands that may contain asbestos:
- Kelley-Moore Deco-Tex
- Georgia-Pacific Texture
- K-Spray Ceiling Texture
- National Gypsum Gold Bond Textures
Adhesive brands that may contain asbestos:
- Armstrong S-89 Adhesive
- Armstrong S-90 Adhesive
- Carey Fibrous Adhesive
- Empire Ace Fibrous Adhesive
- Gold Bond Laminating Adhesive
What Should I Do About Ceiling Tiles That Potentially Contain Asbestos?
If you’re worried that your office has asbestos ceiling tiles, a good place to start is with a state agency. They often maintain lists of work sites suspected to have asbestos contamination. But if it’s your home you’re worried about, unfortunately, there’s only one way to know for sure if your ceiling tiles, ceiling texture products or ceiling adhesives contain asbestos: a professional inspection.
If your drop ceilings or ceiling tiles are intact, you and your family may not be at risk. But if you’re planning a renovation project or your ceilings have been damaged, you may be at risk for asbestos exposure. If you have any ceiling tiles that are damaged or broken, asbestos may already be leeching into the air you breathe. This is not safe! In this case, professional inspection and removal are the best measures to protect your family from possible (or further) exposure to this deadly substance.
Related: Myths About Asbestos You Didn’t Know
When it comes to asbestos, it’s always better to take a better safe than sorry approach. Because there’s no way to tell if your tiles contain asbestos – unless you have historical construction records that list product brand names – caution is recommended. Since these types of records are rarely in the hands of homeowners, if you’re worried, assume the worst and take steps to protect your family.
What to Do If You’ve Been Exposed or Diagnosed with an Asbestos Related Illness
If you know you’ve been exposed to asbestos – whether you worked in a high risk industry, know that your home or office contained asbestos ceiling tiles or had a family member in a high risk industry – you can seek diagnosis. Because asbestos-related illnesses are slow moving and early diagnosis is challenging, it can be difficult for mesothelioma, asbestosis or asbestos-related lung cancer to be caught early on.
Advances in research are aimed at earlier diagnosis of mesothelioma, but for now, most cases are not detected until stage III or IV where treatment is often palliative rather than curative. Asbestosis is the fastest moving of the diseases caused by the toxic fiber, but it manifests itself typically 20 years or longer after exposure.
If you’ve been diagnosed, excellent medical care can prolong your life by several years and advances are being made all the time. For now though, mesothelioma, asbestosis and asbestos-caused lung cancer are unfortunately fatal. In order to afford the standard of care you will need to be comfortable and to leave your spouse or family with some financial security, pursuing a settlement against those responsible for your illness is recommended.
How Do You Pursue a Claim for Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure?
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis or asbestos-related lung cancer, contact Bergman Draper Ladenburg Hart as soon as possible to find out if we can help you pursue a claim. Our firm has a track record of winning significant settlements and has won over $490 million for our asbestos clients. Our expertise is yours for the asking. We are here to help. Contact us today.