What is asbestos testing?
When it comes to determining the presence of this mineral, asbestos testing is the best and most reliable technique. Although you can check for signs by yourself, you probably won’t be able to identify items that contain asbestos from a visual inspection. Once you obtain samples they can be taken to accredited asbestos laboratory. Even though asbestos sampling kits are available for retail, the process of testing requires an acrredited laboratory. The areas and products you should test for include:
- Textured coatings
- Casings for electrical wires
- Sprayed coatings on beams, ceilings, and walls
- Asbestos cement products such as garage or shed roofs and walls, sidings, shingles, soffits, drain pipes, and partitions
- Electrical insulating boards and switchboards
- Water cisterns
- Water and sewage pipes
- Textile composites
- Vinyl floor tiles
- Oil and coal furnaces
- Floors and walls around wood-burning stoves
Why is asbestos testing important?
Properly enclosed asbestos fibers are not a significant health risk. The potential danger occurs when these fibers are disturbed and released into the air. Exposure to the fibers, through ingestion or inhalation, is known to cause life-threatening diseases like asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, cancer of the intestinal tract, and pleural plaques.
Asbestos fibers are extremely fine, around 50-200 times thinner than a human hair, and capable of staying suspended in the air for extended periods. Asbestos usually forms a dust of tiny fibers when disturbed. Unfortunately, these fibers are almost always invisible to the naked eye, which makes identification from a visual inspection impossible.
Although asbestos-related health concerns are generally associated with exposure over an extended period, brief exposure is known to cause mesothelioma in some people. Since the reason for this anomaly remains unknown, keeping exposure as low as possible is always important.
Checking for signs of asbestos
Countries including the USA, UK and Ausutralia have now intrioduced bans on using asbestos. Asbestos products were gradually taken out of production during the 1980s. Asbestos sheeting was phased out of production between 1981 and 1983, corrugated products in 1985, and asbestos-coated pipes in 1987. Similarly, linings and brake pads ceased to contain asbestos in 2003. But if your building was built anytime from the early 1900s to 1989, odds are asbestos containing materials (ACMs) were used during construction.
Check for signs of disturbed asbestos:
This mineral is not a health risk when it is properly enclosed. The potential danger occurs when it starts to break down, and the fibers are released into the air. Check old construction materials for abrasions, discoloration, tears, water damage, and any other sign of wear or damage. Damaged materials are known to release asbestos fibers, especially when disturbed. As such, it’s probably best to treat each material as if it contains asbestos. Hitting, rubbing, or handling on a regular basis could disturb asbestos containing materials. Exposure to extreme vibration or air flow can also cause the disturbance. Even though you cannot comprehensively determine the presence of asbestos from a visual inspection, it helps to look for signs of degradation. Common indications include:
- Disintegrating construction features such as walls, pipes, vinyl tiles, insulation, and stovetop pads, especially those that have been present since the building was first constructed.
- Dusty areas, cracks, and spots where the construction material is likely to break down and fall apart.
Decide whether or not to test the area:
Because asbestos fibers are a health risk only when released into the air, you may not have to get the area checked if you don’t see signs of degradation. However, if you see evidence of degradation, suspect asbestos, get a sample tested by an authorised testing laboratory is the safest approach.
You should get the area tested before you begin any installation, renovation, demolition, or salvage work. Even if the asbestos-containing materials featured are still in good shape, they can release fibers into the air if disturbed, which could happen during construction.
Although several different sampling kits are available for purchase, testing for asbestos without proper training and specialized equipment can pose as a health risk. This is why some professionals do not recommend do-it-yourself asbestos testing. If not handled with care you may end up putting yourself and other people at risk of exposure. If you do decide to test yourself make sure you follow the strict safety measures to minmize risk of exposure. The other alternative is to hire a professionsl asbestos abatement contractor to come and do an inspection and take samples to be tested.
Having the Area Tested
If you decide to do the asbestos testing yourself, you will still have to submit the sample to an accredited laboratory for analysis. To ensure proper disposal, you must dispose of the protective gear used during collection.
Prepare the affected area:
Before a sample is taken you should take steps to ensure everyone’s safety. Asbestos fibers can be disturbed during the process of testing, which is evidently a health risk. To prepare the building:
- Refrain from dusting, cleaning, or vacuuming the suspected area.
- Condon the area to be tested and make sure no one goes in or out during collection.
- Turn off all your air conditioning and ventilation systems. Such appliances can suck away the dust particles or circulate asbestos in the air.
- It’s best to have everyone out of the house at least two days before the testing.
Understand the procedure:
To maximize safety at the time of testing, protective gear is a must-have for anyone in the affected area. Protective clothes, plastic gloves, boots, and face masks that feature High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are some of the items one has to wear. Below are the steps to follow:
- Spread and secure plastic sheeting below the designated area.
- Repeatedly spray the area with water. The presence of moisture helps to keep loose fibers from staying suspended in the air.
- Cut out a small section of the material to be tested.
- Use a plastic sheet, drywall, or tape to patch the indented area. In this way, you can keep the asbestos from spreading.
- Place the small sample in a self-sealing container.
- Place the protective gear and clothing in a sealed plastic bag for proper disposal.
Wait for test results:
Sample materials must be submitted to a Government ceritifed laboratory for analysis. If the sample materials test positive for asbestos, you will have to decide between the repair and removal of asbestos.
Dealing with Asbestos
Having the asbestos repaired:
Repairing asbestos often involves covering or sealing the area to keep the fibers from becoming airborne. Owing to the presence of such a dangerous carcinogen, you will probably want to remove the material. However, repair is the safest option. Compared to repair, removal tends to disturb asbestos more, which creates a greater health risk. You can live with asbestos safely by containing the asbestos.
You can ensure safety by engaging a certified professional to perform the repair. In most cases, a special covering or sealant is used to keep the affected area from breaking down. Although repair is often less expensive than removal, applying sealant is known to make removal more difficult. Eventually, you’ll have to remove whatever is beyond repair.
Living safely with asbestos:
You need to be careful after the completion of repairs. Caution helps to minimize the likelihood of disturbing and releasing asbestos fibers. To live with asbestos containing materials safely:
- Limit activities in the affected areas.
- Do not sand, saw, drill, scrape, or cause any damage to the area, not even after the application of sealant.
- Avoid the use of abrasive cleaning products near the area.
- Do not vacuum or sweep areas.
- If further damage occurs to a material, have it repaired by a certified professional.
Consider asbestos removal:
Removal might be the best option if you do not want to have any asbestos-containing materials in the building. Hire a trained, licensed, and EPA-certified contractor. Compared to repair, the process of removal is more dangerous and can pose a severe health risk if done improperly.
Determining whether you have asbestos in your home is the first step towards managing the health risks associated with asbestos. If asbestos is present, you should identify its location, quantity, and condition. Unless there is substantial contradictory evidence, it is probably best to assume that a suspected material contains asbestos and hire a certified professional. In this way, you reduce the likelihood of exposure.