Ceiling tiles provide insulation and sound deadening for residential, commercial and public buildings by being installed in drop ceilings. Ceiling tiles also work well for adding an extra enclosed space for electrical wiring, heating ducts and plumbing pipes. These types of ceilings are often referred to as acoustic ceilings. This type of ceiling is easy to repair because of its individual tile panels. This has made it popular in schools, hospitals, and office buildings.
Ceiling tiles are convenient, safe, well insulated and heat resistant. Many companies have found that they have saved time and money using them. However, cost and convenience came with one disadvantage. One building material that was often used prior to the 1980s was asbestos, and some ceiling tiles contained large amounts of it. These asbestos fibers were embedded into the tiles, making them fire and heat resistant.
When intact, the asbestos is harmless. However, as time passed the asbestos begins to break down. It becomes brittle and whenever the ceiling tiles are removed, tiny particles can become airborne. Since the tiles often enclose the building’s air conditioning system, there is also the danger of these particles being spread throughout the entire structure. Employees, maintenance workers, school children and teachers can all be at risk of inhaling these particles. Also posing a particular risk is the fact that these tiles usually had to be cut, sawed, sanded, or ground upon installation, and workers performing these duties were often ill-equipped with proper safety gear.
It is very likely that some panels installed in any structures built prior to the mid-1980’s will contain some amount of asbestos. Therefore, an expert should be consulted before removing the tiles from the ceiling and appropriate protective gear should be worn when disturbing or transporting the tiles.