Many houses contain asbestos ceiling materials, especially houses that were built between the 1950s and the 1980s. Asbestos was used commonly in ceilings since it helps with soundproofing and insulation, it's more resistant to fire, and it also hides ceiling imperfections. An asbestos ceiling is also called an "acoustic" ceiling, or "popcorn" ceiling due to its soundproofing qualities and it looks a little like popcorn once it's sprayed on.
There is no way to tell if you have asbestos in your ceiling unless you have a sample analyzed. You can either hire an asbestos specialist or you can gather your own sample with great precautions.
If you are going to take your own ceiling sample for asbestos testing, you will need to wear protective clothing such as a mask, goggles, gloves, and clothing that covers as much of you body as possible.
Prepare the area where you will take the sample from. Place a tarp under the ceiling area and turn off any heating or cooling systems. You must also spray the ceiling area with fine mist containing a few drops of detergent to keep the asbestos from becoming airborne.
Cut a small piece of the ceiling with a sharp knife or other cutting instrument. You will most likely be able to place the sample into a Ziploc bag to seal and contain it.
Either mail in or take the asbestos ceiling sample to a testing facility for analysis.