Western Analytical Asbestos Testing Lab Review

February 19, 2010 | by Fred (email) |

As part of our the recent remodel where we removed walls on the first floor of our house, we also sanded down the rest of the stipple ceiling on the first floor.

We had sanding the stipple ceiling in our dining room the year before, and as part of that project, decided to get the ceiling checked for asbestos.

Many popcorn and stipple ceilings built between 1950 and 1980 contain asbestos. Undisturbed, these ceiling textures are harmless. It’s only when the asbestos fibers become airborn that they represent a health hazard. We didn’t even think of this when we started sanding! (Incidentally, sanding is about the worst thing you can do to any hardened asbestos-containing product).

When Was Asbestos Eliminated From Building Materials?

Our Ryan Home was built in 1984. Since asbestos awareness hit its height in the 1970s, I thought for sure our house wouldn’t have any asbestos in it, and particularly not in a ceiling texture right above our heads! I scoured the web to confirm my opinion. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any definitive information on when asbestos-based interior texturing products were outlawed. Several sites noted a ban on manufacturing in 1978. But, subsequent to the ban, builders and contractors were allowed to use whatever inventory they had in stock. Some sites suggested that interior finishing products could have been asbestos-based as late as the early 80s. I asked myself: What constitutes the early 80s? Is 1985 the early 80s?

The bottom line here is that if your house was built between 1978-1985, there is always some chance there will be asbestos in the ceiling texture. You can look elsewhere on the net, but trust me, no one will tell you that a ceiling put up in this timeframe won’t have asbestos in it.

Finding a Testing Lab And Sending a Sample

I couldn’t take a chance. I searched the net for an asbestos testing lab that could do a quick test to put me at ease. My search led me to Western Analytical. I followed their instructions for obtaining samples (essentially a careful removal of a small amount of the texture from the ceiling), and sent the samples to them.

Western provided detailed instructions on how to take a sample of the ceiling without potentially releasing asbestos into the air, and recommended taking 3 samples from different areas of the ceiling since I was testing more than 1000 sq. ft. They charged $20.00 to analyze each sample, for a total cost of $60.00, a relatively cheap price for peace of mind.

The Result

Three days after I mailed away the samples, I received a confirmation e-mail from Mike @ Western that all samples were negative. Whew. I was impressed with the timeliness of their response, and relieved that we didn’t just expose our kids to a huge amount of asbestos in the air.

So I ask myself after the fact: did I really need to send three samples? Or was that just something Western asks for to make more money? I get their reasoning here: a builder could have used more than one batch of materials on any given ceiling. I question the liklihood of this occurring, but I personally wasn’t willing to take the risk.

What do you think? Did you have a good experience with an asbestos testing lab? Do you have a popcorn or stipple ceiling that is suspect?

Photo courtesy of Dan Taylor

8 Responses
  1. Fred, Wow, I thought our home was in the clear for asbestos, but now I see we aren’t. I’m definitely going to send in a sample for testing asap.

    Thanks for bringing this to homeowner’s attention.


  2. Fred says:

    No problem! We felt much better after getting ours tested. I could just imagine us sanding down the entire ceiling and then finding out it DID have asbestos in it and then we’d be very concerned (and a whole lot too late to do anything about it).

  3. Jose Gutierrez says:

    I need help finding a clinic to test me for asbestos I’ve been working 18 years in and out of plants with asbestos please help me put my mind at ease

    • Fred says:

      Jose, sorry to hear! I’m not sure that there is a test to determine if *you* have asbestos. Best to check with your primary care physician!

  4. Lisa says:

    My house was built in1984 and I have popcorn ceilings. I have at times vaccuumed the ceilings, was this putting my family at risk if there is asbestos in the ceiling materials?

    • Fred says:

      Lisa, probably not. First, in 1984 it is unlikely that the material in your ceiling has asbestos. Could it? Maybe, but it would be a long shot. The material would have had to be sitting somewhere for years before it was consumed. It’s unlikely.

      Second, Simple vacuuming probably isn’t massively disturbing the fibers in the ceiling, especially if its a painted ceiling.

      Anyhow, if you want to be sure what the ceiling’s contents are, you could take a sample and send it in to the lab.

      One final thing to consider is that most people who face asbestosis were probably exposed to the material continuously in fairly large doses. While asbestos should be taken seriously, I doubt that relatively minor exposure is going to be a big deal.

      (Note: Obviously, I’m not a doctor or an expert on this – it’s just my $0.02.)

  5. Faye Cowherd says:

    Hi. Our basement has very thick stucco on the ceiling, up to 3″ spikes in spots. Can’t contact previous owner as he died. (natural causes) Probably he or original owners of the 1979 house did it I would think. So should I get it tested? Have already removed smaller low ceilings of the stuff. Took several days without proper mask.

  6. Victoria Morton-Williams says:

    My tenant offered to help around the house in exchange for reduced rent. Instead of doing the task requested he offered to pull up the carpet which my husband and I had planned on doing. Initially I said no because I didn’t have the time to finish the concrete floor which was the plan. Then I said that if there’s tile I don’t want it pulled up. I came downstairs and half the carpet and half the tile was pulled and broken up in small pieces. He left the day after for a month and has been back for almost a month. I was worried about asbestos but didnt’ know enough. I’ve been doing research and now i’m terrified. I have a 2 year old and 4 year old. The tile’s been broken up and sitting there for 2 months! What do I do now? I can’t afford professional abatement at this time. The overlay subfloor will stick to the adhesive but not the tile thats left. I’m sooo angry, I just don’t know what to do. Oh and house was built in 1962.

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