Asbestos in old wallboard?

Is it likely (or possible) that wallboard in a 50-year-old house (built 1956) would contain asbestos?
I'm removing multiple layers of wallpaper in the bathroom, but the bottom layer is vinyl wallpaper glued directly to unpainted wallboard. No matter how careful I am (I'm using a perforation tool and wallpaper remover paste), the wallboard's paper cover still tends to come off with the wallpaper, leaving a fuzzy surface, and possibly releasing fiber dust into the air as the wallpaper pulls away.
The wallboard is light brown with a similar-colored paper cover, and looks like some kind of composite material.
James
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A clarification -- On closer inspection I don't think the wallboard actually had a paper cover. I think it's all the same material, but it's smooth in areas where the small wallpaper pulled away cleanly, but rough and fuzzy in areas where the top layer is getting pulled off by the wallpaper. But my original question about asbestos still stands.
James
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I have no idea as to whether asbestos was ever used as part of wallboard, but doubt it. It sounds like you might have exposed paper that was part of the vinyl wallpaper and you pulled off only the top vinyl coating. The smoothe spots could be plaster, or are you sure there is wallboard? Where the vinyl has pulled away, spray the papery stuff with water, let it soak in, spray again, and use a scraper gently to see if it lifts off. I've removed lots of wallpaper, including two layers with paint on each, and never found it difficult to get off. Just messy. If the vinyl layer will peel off fairly intact, just pull it off and then spray the bottom layer with water. The spray/soak x2 allows the paper to absorb water and soften the paste. All of the wallpaper I've ever taken off had paste that softened easily with water - the only trick is in getting the water to it because either paint or vinyl are a barrier. My favorite tool is very coarse sandpaper, rubbed gently horiz. across the coating to score it and NOT get into the wallboard. Spray a couple of times real well, allowing it to soak in, and start peeling/scraping. Scoring horiz. helps keep the water from running down the wall. Let us know how it goes.
Start with a small area until you figure out what is under the paper.
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Thanks for the tips, but it's definitely *wallboard* I'm exposing, I can clearly see the wood fibers in the composite material, the nails, the joints, etc. It's wallboard.

I *wish* the bottom layer of wallpaper would separate, leaving the paper backing that could be soaked to loosen it. I can do that with the newer layers of wallpaper, but not the bottom layer (which is probably 50 years old). No matter how much I perforate and soak it, it comes off as a unit or not at all, and it usually damages the wallboard when it comes off. :(
But it sounds like the general feeling is that it's unlikely to contain asbestos. Thanks everyone for your advice. :)
Jim
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Most governments maintain a building standards laboratory that is likely to have this information on file. It depends where you live.
--
Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote in

I'd guess anything's possible given the way they used to throw asbestos around. What I do know is that my 50 year old house has drywall with writing on the backside indicating it's reinforced with fiberglass. If you can access any of yours from an unfinished area like an attic there might be some clues assuming the bathroom walls don't use different stuff. Mine's all the same.
Doug
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I have never heard of wallboard containing asbestos. If you are releasing fibers into air then wear a dusk mask. Re-wallpaper or paint to encapsulate. Personally, I wouldn't worry about asbestos here.

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No asbestos in gypsum wallboard, however there may or may not be asbestos in some brands of the joint cement used between the gypsum panels. Sounds like this very small amount would not be an issue in your situation. It wouldn't stop me. Gypsum can sometimes be irritating to the throat/nose but it is not asbestos.
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