Ceiling Materials and Associated Problems
There are some IAQ issues that may be associated with ceiling materials: moisture-related problems, asbestos, chemical emissions (formaldehyde and VOCs), and traps for odors and other chemicals.
Chemical and odor traps
Recycling of old ceiling tiles
If water or moisture collects on ceiling tiles, biological contaminants such as mold, bacteria, or viruses may begin growing there. As a result, all water-stained ceiling tiles should be replaced.
This may be found in some ceiling tiles, or it may be part of a "popcorn" ceiling in some homes. Asbestos was sometimes used as soundproofing or decorative material sprayed on walls and ceilings. The only way to know for sure is to have it tested.
If you have asbestos in your ceiling, it should not be a problem as long as it's in good condition. However, loose, crumbly, or water-damaged material may release these potentially deadly fibers as will sanding, drilling, or scraping these materials.
Even though your ceiling materials may not contain asbestos, make sure that the insulation above it does not either. For example, tests have shown that even installing a light fixture or ceiling fan through an attic floor insulated with Zonolite (a type of vermiculite) can produce dangerous levels of airborne asbestos.
Ceiling tile can contain formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from materials used in their manufacture. When installed, these chemicals can be released into the atmosphere. Low-emitting ceiling tile should be used.
Chemical and Odor Traps
Ceiling materials are porous and absorptive and can trap odors and chemicals resulting from other building activities and materials. Once trapped, these odors and chemicals can be re-released. In new building construction, ceiling tiles are often put in after painting, flooring adhesive application, and other wet solvent processes. Otherwise, ceiling tile will collect the chemicals and retain them in the building.
Recycling of Old Ceiling Tiles
If building owners are remodeling, there is a chance that their old ceiling tiles can be recycled under new programs.