How do I test for Asbestos?

Testing for asbestos is a simple, straightforward process best undertaken by a trained professional since it can be dangerous.

At the same time, it is possible through deductive reasoning to ascertain whether your home is the site of possible asbestos contamination, which is something that you’d want to know.

Generally, homes built before 1980 and even some built after this year are prime candidates for materials containing asbestos.

Asbestos can be found in:

1. Insulation around boilers, ducts, pipes, sheeting and fireplaces
2. Siding
3. Flashing and roof shingles
4. Ceiling tiles and old floor tiles
5. Pipe cement
6. Joint compound on seams between slabs of sheetrock

Note: Your experiencing certain physical symptoms associated with asbestos related illnesses is not necessarily the most empirical means to determine whether asbestos is present in your home. Symptoms can take 10-40 years to manifest.

Symptoms of asbestos exposure

Asbestos exposure are several pulmonary cancers and chronic lung ailments:

1. Asbestosis
2. Cancer of the lungs, larynx, gastrointestinal tract and kidneys
3. Mesothelioma

All of the above illnesses share such symptoms as a persistent dry and/or bloody cough, prolonged hoarseness, shortness of breath and visceral and pulomonary pain/discomfort, difficulty swallowing and unplanned weight loss.

Two approved methods of asbestos analysis are Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) and Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM). Both methods test for airborne asbestos, e.g., fibers that have become dislodged over the life of an asbestos sample.

TEM is the most advanced technology for determining the presence of asbestos minerals. Simply put, it entails emitting electrons through a sample and collecting a snapshot of this transaction. The tiniest asbestos fibers are exposed as if in an asbestos fiber photograph, so to speak. PLM is more often used to test for asbestos in bulk building materials. Specific asbestos minerals possess unique crystalline structures and reflect light at certain angles and speeds; thus the fibers reveal their identity when illuminated under special, controlled circumstances. PLM entails this process and its corresponding techniques.

Both methods are highly specialized and required properly skilled, certified individuals to carry them out.

Despite the EPA offers instructions geared at anyone who would like to collect asbestos samples, the volatility of asbestos and long term danger owed to direct exposure aren’t worth the risk.

Once samples are collected, they must be sent out for testing.

At the National Institute for Standards and Technology, you can peruse a list of laboratories certified to do TEM and PLM analysis. These labs have fulfilled safety and efficiency criteria established by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program. Luckily, even some worst cases scenarios of asbestos contamination are easily remedied. Often, asbestos-containing material is sealed in such a way it does not pose an immediate threat.

Nevertheless, removal is still the most preferable scenario. This is always a job best performed by a skilled asbestos removal team.