Before scraping off your ‘popcorn’ ceilings . . .

Asbestos. . . consider the article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle: Couple awarded $7 million in asbestos lawsuit.

The case involves Joan Mahoney, 69, who lives in South Lake Tahoe. Joan had an acting and singing career in Los Angeles for many years and toured with the USO. Later, she and her husband moved north to start a part-time remodeling business. During that time, the couple used several products containing asbestos, which has been linked to mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer.

When Joan was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2006, the couple sued Georgia-Pacific Corp., which made an asbestos-containing joint compound the couple used for drywall. Georgia-Pacific no longer makes it.

So what does this mean to you? There’s no doubt heavy exposure to airborne asbestos fibers is linked to various illnesses, including, according to Columbia University, lung cancer, asbestosis (scarring of the lungs) and mesothelioma (which affects the lining of the chest).

Note the word "airborne." That’s the key. If the asbestos is in the ceiling texture, or in roofs, walls or other places, it’s not airborne. Only when scrape it, cut it, sand it or drill into it are you liberating those fibers.

The question up for debate is: How much asbestos exposure is dangerous? How much did Joan inhale? How much will you inhale if you tackle your ceilings? What is your comfort level on risk?

If it was me, I’d at least get the material tested (do an Internet search on asbestos testing in your neighborhood, or look in the phone book) for $25 or $30 and then decide on my next action. If asbestos is present, hiring professionals might bring peace of mind, if not real health benefits.

Real more from Ask the Inspector
Read an asbestos fact sheet from Stanford University

(Photo: Magnified asbestos fibers from The Daily Green)

2 Comments on Before scraping off your ‘popcorn’ ceilings . . .

  1. evelyn Lanner

    I am wonderin if anyone has used a reputable testing comp. they can recommend?

  2. dilbert dogbert

    With a proper face mask — not those ex bra liners that are sold in hardware stores — yes 3M I am talking about you, and disposable clothes the risk can be reduced to tolerable levels.
    An important question to ask is: Did or does Joan smoke? I have read that smoking increases your risk of mesothelioma 300 times.
    With all the legal expenses I expect Joan to get less than a million out of the settlement.