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            About Ceiling Suckers ®

by Gideon Schuman

In 1978 I started a career in ducted air conditioning and installing insulation for a major air conditioning company.

It was during this career that spanned nearly ten years that I took note of what I encountered in ceilings. At the time ceiling dust and insulation were not recognised as potential health risks, and so respirators were not worn. My exposure to ceiling dust and insulation led to a severe collapse in 1980's, leaving me with permanent breathing problems.

I left the industry for some time to allow recovery, and returned in the late 1980's, dedicating myself in my spare time to developing some sort of system to remove loose fill insulation from roofs, as no equipment was readily available.

In the early 1990's I developed symptoms that caused further alarm - I lost sense of touch in my fingertips. My hands and feet seemed to be uncoordinated. I found it difficult to concentrate especially when reading.

Specialists concluded incorrectly that I had early signs of Multiple Sclerosis. This being a terminal disease, I faced the prospect of dying at a relatively early age and became severely depressed as a result.

However, another opinion from a well read doctor led to the conclusion I had heavy metal poisoning. Investigating my work background, and many tests later, this doctor concluded that I had been LEAD POISONED.

In many of the houses I had worked in the lead levels in the dust far exceeded what was considered "safe". From then on I dedicated myself to make homes safer, trying to raise an awareness of the dangers. This was difficult because no real research had been done on ceiling dust.

I was helped partly by the Environmental Protection Authority of NSW (EPA) in 1994 setting up a working party to educate people about lead, setting up the Lead Advisory Service (LAS) http://www.lead.org.au/lanv7n2/L72-9.html LAS was instrumental in editorials in suburban newspapers which kick-started the industry.

In 1996 Channel 9's "Our House"
http://ourhouse.ninemsn.com.au/ourhouse/factsheets/db/ gizmosandgadgets/07/778.asp featured a story on Ceiling Suckers and the dangers of lead.

In July 2004 Channel 7's Auction Squad http://auctionsquad.com.au/current.php?ID=2951 warned homeowners of the dangers of ceiling dust, advising them to use our services, and for years the Sydney Building Information Centre http://www.buildingcentre.com has been recommending our services.

In all this time I have been asking: "Why there is so much dust in ceilings?" "Where did it come from?" "What is it doing to you?" The answers will alarm you.

There is not enough space on this site to cover all aspects but briefly ...

Ceiling dust: contains lead, polycyclic hydrocarbons, pesticide residues, fungal spores, and often asbestos.

Lead: more often contributed again by the fireplaces, not cars. Fuel used in open fireplaces in yesteryear was often not recovered from the bush. Fuel merchants used to roam demolition sites, recovering old timber, cutting it up, and selling to unsuspecting homeowners as firewood. ALL of this old timber was painted - with lead paint. Dangers of lead is well documented, but understated.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH's): http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts69.html PAHs include tar, bitumen, benzenes, naphthalene, creosote and by-products of coal gas (better known as town gas), Coal gas was used before the introduction of natural gas. PAH's have only recently been identified as being present in large volumes in ceiling dust, and are carcinogenic.

Prior to the introduction of electric hot water systems, gas hot water systems were installed in homes with the fumes not flued up through the roof into the atmosphere, but into the roof space. These fumes were invisible, and at the time, not considered to be a danger. The more prolonged usage of these, the more PAH's found in roofs. An accumulation of fumes from town gas produced super fine dust of tar droplets that covered the whole of the ceiling, and timbers. Many people living in homes that have this situation suffer from sinus and asthma, and do not associate dust in ceilings with their condition.

Residual pesticides: in years gone by lead arsenate was used in a powder form to kill vermin in roof. Today boric acid and borax is used. They are all deadly.

Histoplasmosis: http://wasg.iinet.net.au/histo.html. Many explorers entering the tombs of the ancient Pharaohs of Egypt when they were first discovered died soon after. From this came the mystery - "the curse of the Pharaohs". Later it was found that the floor of the entrances to the tombs were covered in a fine dust, which when stirred up by footsteps, caused an invisible cloud. Breathing this dust caused symptoms like pneumonia, and because incorrect treatment was given, many died or were left with permanent lung damage.

This dust had a fungus in it - histoplasmosis. The dust was, in fact, faeces from bats that lived in the passages. It has proven to be so dangerous that even today cavers are cautious about entering caves known to have had a bat population.

Found in almost all ceilings are rat droppings, cockroach faeces and bird droppings. All have the fungus histoplasmosis which can kill, or leave you with a permanent lung disability.

Asbestos: Many roofs were once asbestos shingles which have since been removed, and the roof replaced with new materials. Homes have been sold and changed hands without new owners being told it once was an asbestos roof.

From 1950's onwards many homes had electric hot water tanks installed in the roof spac. The hot water pipes from them were often insulated with asbestos lagging, which had been removed and discarded within the roof. When confronted with asbestos, many "experts" aren't able to identify it when asked to. Ceiling Suckers has come across many situations where tradesmen have unwittingly been exposed to asbestos in ceilings, and will wonder why they are dying from asbestosis or mesothelioma in years to come, when to their recollection, they had never handled asbestos.

Insulation: Fibreglass batts, rockwool and slag wool are referred to as Synthetic Mineral Fibres (SMF's). All were widely used as ceiling insulation. The International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that SMF's are possibly carcinogenic. Australia's National Occupational Health and Safety Commission
http:www.nohsc.gov.au/OHSInformation/NOHSCPublications/fulltext/docs/h6/0329 also recognises SMF's as being dangerous as well as the Building Industry in general http:unionsafe.labour.net.au/hazards/10481130845247.html

Removal of SMF's by hand is a dangerous practice. Millions of respirable fibres are released when handling old insulation - fibres that are respirable, and potentially have the same effect as breathing in asbestos.

Waste Services NSW
http://www.wasteservice.nsw.gov.au/ - requires that SMF's be disposed of in the same manner as asbestos. It must transported in sealed containers, and disposed at licensed tips.

Other hazardous insulation products include cellulose fibre insulation (CFI), to meet the questionable Australian Standard, has to have by volume no less than 20% borax/boric acid mix. Borax and boric acid happen to be not only flame retardants but pesticides that are so deadly a teaspoon of either can kill a child.

Is ceiling dust affecting you,
even though you don't go into the roof space?
We can't say loudly enough ... YES!!!

The dangerous dust is the super fine dust you can't see. Every time a gust of wind sweeps through your ceiling it disturbs it. More so when an electrician or other tradesperson works up there to mechanically disturb it. If you have ceiling vents, wall vents, exhaust fans, recessed lights, halogen lights, ducted air conditioning you have this super fine dust entering your home.

How often have you left your home for a length of time, and come back to find a fine film of dust covering your timber furniture, your polished floor boards? This is toxic dust from your ceiling. If you can see it on hard surfaces, can you imagine what you're breathing in?

This dust is not only affecting the health of you and your family right now, it is also affecting your electronic equipment - VCRs, keyboards, computers - all suffer from failures from this fine dust entering them.

What is in your ceiling is affecting you and your
family right now! This is where you should
call the experts ... Ceiling Suckers.


Your health - your valuables.


150kg dust sucked from house in Concord. This is average. Normally the dust is automatically bagged by Hazvac, but for the photo, it has been emptied onto plastic sheet, and then sucked up again.

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Click on the images to read the story

A typical gas hot water system prior to electric water tanks installed in roof spaces. Flue goes into roof space, pumping fumes which become dust. This dust is superfine and contains high levels of PAH's

Accumulated birds nest material dropped down from apex of roof. Full of histoplasmosis fungus from droppings. Birds nests attract rats who eat eggs, young chicks, and bird excrement

asbestos lagging electrical work asbestos powder still in hessian bag

Asbestos - Click on the images to see more

Typical rat infestation in fibreglass batts

Sucking out cellulose fibre insulation

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