Homes built from the 1930s into the 1980s had decorative touches to the walls that were made with textured coating. These textures ran from fine to heavy stucco-like textures. Many of these coatings contained asbestos because it added to the texture and was fire resistant. These coatings that contain asbestos cause serious health concerns. They can release asbestos fibers into the air if the surface is damaged. Asbestos becomes extremely toxic if the surface on which it is found is easily crushed or crumbled by hand. It can be especially hazardous if there is paint dust either on or beneath the textured surface.
These textured coatings are equally dangerous when remodeling and renovations are done to homes that contain them. If the textured coatings are sanded, high levels of asbestos dust can get into the air. The fibers in the dust are deadly if inhaled or ingested in some way. They become lodged inside the body, usually in the lining of the lungs, and can cause mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer.
While asbestos is no longer used in newly-built homes in the United States, it can still be found in buildings constructed prior to about 1980. If in good condition, asbestos-containing textured coatings should be left alone. However, if the material is starting to crumble, it should be dealt with by a licensed contractor, who will likely either remove it or encapsulate it in resin or another substance to prevent the fibers from escaping.