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How to Safely Clean Asbestos Ceilings

asbestos exposureWhether you’re cleaning your home for yourself or in preparation of a sale, you need to be careful if the house was built before 1980. In such cases, asbestos exposure can be a real hazard because the mineral appeared in a wide range of products, such as insulation and fireproofing materials.

Recently, I read the Home and Garden column of The Telegraph, a newspaper in Georgia. In a Q&A, a reader asked the columnist about the best way to clean the cobwebs off a popcorn textured ceiling.

Wear protective gear and proceed carefully
In response to the reader’s question, columnist Gene Austin noted that asbestos was a common component of popcorn textured ceilings in homes that were built during the 1960s and 1970s. Austin advised the reader that, before doing any major cleaning, it’s important to first test the ceiling for the presence of asbestos. Although there are do-it-yourself kits that provide the tools to collect samples to send to a laboratory, this work can also be performed by certified professionals.

If these tests show that the ceiling is made with asbestos, there is only the threat of danger if the material is disturbed. This is why it’s important to approach asbestos using only the utmost level of caution. Austin advised readers to mist the area, as damp popcorn is less likely to flake, and very gently remove the cobweb with a paintbrush. He also recommended not touching the ceiling at all.

I’d also like to take this advice even further and recommend that while performing this work, you should always wear respirator facial masks, eye protection and head covering. Once the job is done, your clothes need to be disposed of. And, if at any point the popcorn begins to flake or break off, work needs to stop immediately.

A ceiling that contains asbestos may be a drawback in any efforts to sell a house because you need to disclose the fact that asbestos is present. There are several ways to handle this. If the asbestos is in tact, the best thing to do is leave it alone. Otherwise, you should hire a professional to remove it.

When it comes to popcorn-textured ceilings, the best way to cover them is by using suspended ceiling tiles, which provides more protection than drywall. Still, the presence of the asbestos needs to be disclosed.

Make sure the professionals are qualified
Remember – asbestos was present in as many as 3,000 consumer and industrial products by the mid-1970s. This is responsible for the trends we are now seeing in the incidence of diseases like malignant mesothelioma.

If you decide to work with a professional to solve your home’s asbestos problem, remember that there are no federal laws requiring these individuals to be specially trained in handling asbestos. These regulations often fall under state and local laws, which you should consult in order to ensure that you are working with someone who is knowledgeable. Once a job is complete, make sure the people you hire provide you with written assurance that they followed all safety measures.

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