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Depending on what year your house was built, you might have asbestos in that popcorn ceiling. Typically, anything older than 1979 is a good chance that it could have asbestos; our company regularly finds that with popcorn ceilings. We always send a environmental hygenist out to our jobs to confirm whether or not a house is "hot" for asbestos. It's preventative protection for our workers.
Removing popcorn ceilings requires a lot of preparation to prevent contamination of the other areas of your home. You will need to cordon off the area (room) with some kind of plastic covering the walls, floor, and entry area - this is for your own protection. Also, you will need to wear personal protective equipment including a tyvex type of suit that covers you from head to toe, gloves, safety glasses, and most importantly - a respirator. These things are necessary to keep you safe from breathing in the microscopic fibers of asbestos and preventing you from getting asbestosis or mesothelioma (a tumor of the mesothelium, often malignant and thought to be caused most commonly by the inhalation of asbestos particles.)
Based on the information found via the internet, I believe the difference in siding materials depends a lot on where you live and what kind of climate you experience year round for your location. I'm including a link here that shows what one inventive father did with his children to promote education in understanding their climate of California. It's a very good way of finding out the semantics of a product while spending quality time bonding with your children. Best of all, he's done the difficult work of figuring out which materials stand up to severe climate changes for you!
I cannot say that I've ever done this or known anyone who has, however, I found this helpful step by step on the internet from someone who says it's relatively easy and can be very cost effective:
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