Many public and commercial buildings -- from classrooms and hospitals to offices and stores -- have asbestos ceiling tiles. They were a practical choice for fire resistance and insulation properties, and their popularity spread to housing construction. Banning asbestos started in the 1970s, but experts agree that it is likely part of many homes built before 1981 [source: Goodwin].
Obvious forms of asbestos ceiling tiles are the 9 by 9 inch (22.86 by 22.86 cm) or 12 by 12 inch (30.48 by 30.48 cm) white or off-white panels held up in a grid system. Adding or removing a tile involves pushing it up from the grid frame and angling it down and out or up and in place. Basements in homes, in particular, might feature the tiles because of their soundproof qualities and low cost. It's estimated that 5 to 10 percent of the ceiling tiles in the U.S. contain asbestos [source: EPA].
Ceiling tiles made with asbestos are a lower risk because the asbestos fibers are tightly woven within the tile. As with other asbestos materials, however, removing, breaking or cutting can release harmful particles from the fibers. When left in place, tiles can remain as is or be treated with sealant to protect them from wear or breakdown [source: Asbestos.com].