Occupational (OSHA) and Environmental Hazards/Asbestos in textured ceiling


I am a homeowner with a textured ceiling that I began removing before I decided to have it tested for asbestos at a lab. The house was built in 1986 so I didn't think it contained asbestos but I wanted to be sure.
It appears to be joint compound done in a “stucco” effect. It comes off easily when wet with a spray bottle of water and scraped with a putty knife.

The lab just called with the results which were "point 5 percent"  (.5%) asbestos.   They said it is usually not a problem unless it is 1% or above - could you please comment on that.   I worked for an hour removing it.  It was very dusty and I worked without a mask very close to the ceiling and so breathed in alot of the dust.  

Is there any way to judge if this exposure is likely to cause future health issues for me?  As you can imagine I am very concerned.

Is it possible the test results could have been wrong?  Could you please comment on the danger/risk level of having been exposed to this level of asbestos in airborne dust and on the risk should I continue removing it on my own. My ceiling is partially removed and I don't know if it is really safe for me to finish removing it on my own because as far as I understand there is really no safe level even though it is under 1% asbestos

Thank you.

Sorry it took me so long to respond.  Normally I answer right away, but have been busy searching for a new job.

.5%.....that makes me wonder if you had the lab do air analysis or actually took a peice of the material in to be tested.  What kind of test did you have done?  If it was a bulk material sample, any lab that determines .5%, to me is questionable unless they used a Transmission Electron Microscope.  And that would be costly.  The methodology used to determine the presence of asbestos is scientific and uses polarized light micrsocopy in identifying its presence, but is subjective in determining the percentage.  And if someone in a lab really thinks they can, with their human eye determine .5% asbestos in a bulk material, I think they are nuts.  So maybe you had air analysis done.  Please write back and let me know.

Now on to your exposure. First and foremost, I would not worry about it.  Think of this...many car brake linings still have asbestos in them.  Asbestos is still found in other building materials too.  So basically we all have been exposed to it already in very small and minute quantities one way or another.  And yes, it is possible the test results could be wrong.  You can check on the labs accreditation and their quality control program too. But first let's establish what type of test you had done, okay?  If you want to calm your fears, go to an Occupational Health clinic and ask for an asbestos health screening.  Pay close attention to how your lungs feel too and you might get a chest Xray now and then.  But to me, that is a lot of bother for 1 hours worth of exposure to a very small quantity.

Also know this....there are constituents in certain types of textured ceilings that mimic asbestos.  Normally the type of asbestos found in this type of material is Chrysotile.  The mimic is called High-density polyethylene.  Certain additional test methods must be used to rule out the possibility of High-density polyethylene. You might consult with the lab about that too. Maybe just play a gam with them and ask them if the know what High-density polethylene is.  The answer will tell you lots about the lab. I have tested 100s of thousdands of samples in my lifetime and run into this quite often.  Many of the samples I tested were for large governmental contracts and schools, so my quality control and laboratory procedures had to be exempliary.  Our lab was accredited by a National Agency too.

I hope this information helps you understand that there is not that much to worry about, but also gives you options to think about if you want to make sure your health is good.   

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for getting back to me.  Well the lab was iATL -  www.iatl.com.   I sent a small bag of the stuff I had scraped off the ceiling,  It was not an air sample. They also said it was Chrysotile. It was $30.00 to have it tested.  Their website says they are fully accredited etc. but most of their website was way too technical for me to understand so I don't really understand how they came to their conclusion. I think they do mention "polarized light micrsocopy" on the website.
DO YOU THINK IT COULD BE A GREATER CONCENTRATION OF ASBESTOS OR LESS?   They called me with the results and they are going to send a letter as well but I haven't gotten the letter yet.
I feel I should get an air sample now though and see if there are still fibers floating around in the house.  Do you think that is what I should do next?  We didn't close off the room and there is still dust on the floor.  I didn't vacumm - just swept it up and threw it in the garbage and that was about a month ago.
I was thinking of sending a sample to another lab too.
Thank you again.


Okay.  Now I know about the lab.  I will say this again....don't worry yourself sick about this.  Textured Ceiling Surfacings has been found to have anywhere from <1% asbestos up to about 20% asbestos.  Yours is <1%. (That was how we reported a trace amount.)  Key word "trace".  NO NEED TO GET THE AIR TESTED.  

Here is what to do to ensure you have removed any residue.  Wet wipe everything. Chrysotile is attracted to moisture.  You have a trace amount.  Use moisture to get up all the dust and vacuum using a HEPA filter if you can.  If you have carpets...have them profesionally steam cleaned. Then open up the house and let the air blow through. Voila, you will have a clean environment.  Of course you can take another sample to another lab to have it tested.  You might also call that original lab and mention High-density polethylene, asking them if they are certain the sample did n

I know that some labs report less than 1% asbestos as "trace" in their reports, and some report it as non detected.  It is such a small amount, please do NOT worry about it and spend more money on tests.  And the guy is wrong about TEM.....Transmission Electron Microscopy being the "only method" that can rule out High-density polyethylene.  What a lab technician using polarized light micrscopy can do is....if they suspect HDP they can expose the fibers to high heat and if they melt...voila!  It is High-density polyethylene.  Some labs may not have that capability.  

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Jane Cunningham


I can answer any questions about asbestos. This means asbestos in building materials and in other applications. It still exists in building and particularly in older plumbing and heating systems.


Experience in the area. I worked in the asbestos testing and monitoring industry for 9 years. I ran and managed an asbestos testing lab. Asbestos is a fire-resistant fiber that comes in different forms.

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