You might have heard about the health hazards of asbestos. Go through this article for some information about identifying, sampling, and testing asbestos in suspected articles.
Asbestos was a popular material that was used for various purposes, especially in construction business. Most of us are familiar with the numerous asbestos products, like roofing shingles, floor tiles, ceiling tiles, coatings and paints, caulking, brake pads, and fire-resistant clothes. It was one of the versatile materials with numerous industrial and other applications; and its popularity was due to properties, like high tensile strength and resistance to heat, fire, and chemicals.
However, during the latter part of the 1980s, most of the countries started banning this material, due to its health hazards. Even though, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has banned the use of asbestos in 1989, a subsequent court ruling allowed limited use of this material for some purposes. Now asbestos testing is done to find out traces of this material in suspected items. In some regions, this testing is mandatory; for sale of homes and other constructions, especially those that were constructed before 2000.
Asbestos Health Hazards
As any material that contains asbestos can be hazardous to humans, the concept of asbestos testing has been introduced. Asbestos contains microscopic fibers that get easily disbursed through the air. These fibers are said to have pointed ends that can puncture the lung tissues and cause damage to the organ. Asbestos fibers can cause scarring of the lungs (asbestosis), and a type of cancer called malignant mesothelioma. It can also cause skin and heart problems.
While those with allergies may develop immediate allergic reactions, when exposed to asbestos fibers; others develop symptoms after long-term exposure. However, the health hazards of asbestos are really life-threatening, and so, authorities have banned its use. It is possible that you may come across some asbestos products, or something that you suspect to have asbestos.
What is Asbestos Testing?
This test is meant for detecting the presence of asbestos in any material. While some products have labels that indicate their ingredients, others may not have such lists. Such labels may indicate the presence of asbestos in a particular product. Otherwise, you have to resort to an asbestos test. It is a test that is usually conducted at laboratories, but nowadays, asbestos testing kits are also available.
If you want to go for the laboratory asbestos test, you may either collect a sample for yourself, or hire a professional. Collection of sample can be risky, as disturbing the suspected article may cause release of fibers that may result in asbestos exposure, if sufficient precautionary measures are not taken.
In order to collect the sample for asbestos testing, ensure that there is nobody in the room, where the article is kept. Spread a plastic sheet on an even surface, where you intend to collect the sample. Wear protective mask and disposable gloves; and switch off the heating and cooling systems. Place the article on the plastic sheet. The next step is to mist the article lightly and cut a sample from it. Place it in a clean container or vial. Seal the container and label it indicating the place and date of collection. You have to patch the part, from where the sample has been taken, to prevent release of asbestos fibers. Once sample collection is over, remove and dispose the gloves and the plastic sheet.
How is the Test Performed
As the fibers in asbestos are microscopic in nature, the asbestos test is usually done in laboratories through polarized light microscopy (PLM). This test is found to be expensive; and the cost may vary with the type of sample, sample collection, and inspection of the site. It is said that asbestos testing kits are cheaper, but you have to check whether the price includes laboratory charges.
You may come across various products with asbestos in homes and other buildings constructed before 2000. So asbestos testing and removal must be done according to the standards set by the EPA. It is always better to hire professionals for this purpose, as they have a solid knowledge about the correct methods of sample collection and disposal of asbestos. Meanwhile, you must refrain from disturbing the suspected material, so as to avoid dispersal of fibers and the possible asbestos dangers. If that happens accidentally, it is advisable to isolate the area, and take sufficient precautionary measures.
In short, asbestos testing is useful for detecting the presence of asbestos in your immediate surroundings. One you detect its presence, you will be able to dispose it off properly; and this will prevent the health hazards that can be caused by exposure to this material. So, if you suspect that any of the articles in your home contains this material; contact an accredited laboratory, and get the test done, as soon as possible. Testing for asbestos and its removal is a task that requires professional expertise, and so, it is wise to hire professionals.