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Worksite Health

Asbestos Exposure From Acoustic Ceilings

01/13/2009

Question:

We have acoustic ceilings throughout our house. The house was built in 1977, and we moved in a year ago. The inspector took a sample in the master bedroom and found less than 1% of chrysotile asbestos in the ceilings. I have noticed pieces of this ceiling breaking lose here and there Is my family in danger of asbestos exposure? I`m worried that the small fibers that can`t be seen by the eye are constantly getting redeposited in the air through the HVAC system. Thank you for your help.

Answer:

One problem with the information you supplied in the report, "less than 1% chrysotile asbestos" is that we don't know how much less than 1% there is. It could be that 1% is the limit of detection of their method and they therefore cannot say there is any there. It could be 0 or it could be 0.9999%. That still leaves you with uncertainty. One way to approach this is to do some research on the product that was used in your house. Do you know the manufacturer and what product was used? Several of the flooring, roofing and other manufacturers have web sites where they list products and asbestos content. A general principle of dealing with asbestos is that if you can make sure the fibers stay in place, you are better off than doing something that will release fibers into the air. So some abatement efforts focus on sealing the product in such a way that the fibers stay put. If it turns out you have ceilings with asbestos in them, a contractor could seal them with the correct product to assure the fibers stay in place. If the points where the ceiling material is breaking loose are few, even just sealing those points may do the trick. In general, the ceilings likely pose little risk. Also, keeping your HVAC filter clean through regular changing and maintenance will improve the air quality in your home in general.

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Response by:

J Mac Crawford, PhD, RN J Mac Crawford, PhD, RN
Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences
College of Public Health
The Ohio State University