Asbestos Testing – How to analyse the presence of asbestos? Asbestos is a mineral composed of thin, very compact fibres found in nature. Because of its strength, asbestos was used in the manufacture of insulation and fireproof materials, as well as building materials. Unfortunately, asbestos is very harmful to health, because the fibres can peel off and form invisible particles in the air that later cause damage to the tissues lining the lungs (mesothelioma) and even lung cancer.
You can check if your home contains asbestos by yourself, but you’d better let a professional do it because you’ll need special equipment to do it. If your home’s building materials contain asbestos, you must hire a construction company to repair or remove the materials that contain this cancerous substance to ensure the health of all people living in the building.
Recognize the signs of the presence of asbestos
- Determine when the building was built.
Asbestos was widely used between 1930 and 1989, after which the Australia Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began regulating the amount of building materials containing asbestos. Although this material is usually found in the foundations of buildings, it is also possible to find it in gas heaters, hair dryers, certain clothing and in the brakes of automobiles.
- Walls, floors, textured paints, insulation, fireproof materials, electrical cables and even slates manufactured between 1930 and 1989 may contain asbestos. If the structure was built between 1930 and 1989, it is very likely that its foundation will contain asbestos.
- Nowadays, few materials are made with asbestos. If a material currently contains asbestos, the manufacturer must place a warning on the label.
- Observe for signs of deteriorated or degraded materials containing asbestos.
It is almost impossible to recognise if an object contains asbestos simply by looking at it. Instead of doing this, check to see if foundation materials are deteriorating. Asbestos is not dangerous when in good condition. However, if the material is deteriorated, then the asbestos fibres are released and contaminate the air, in addition to being toxic. Pay close attention to whether there are materials in your home that are worn or damaged.
- Check pipes, insulation, walls, tiles, vinyl floors, kitchen boards, and other deteriorated materials that have been in the building since it was built.
- Look for cracks, dusty places or where the material appears to be wearing or corroding.
- Decide if you are going to have a professional check the building.
If the foundations or materials you checked are not damaged, then you do not need to have the building checked by a professional. However, if the foundation of the building is not in good condition, it is best to have the building checked with a professional who has been certified to analyse and handle harmful materials like asbestos.
Another situation where you have to check the ground or the building is if you plan to build something new or renovate the old foundations. Even if the old materials appear to be in good condition, they will surely release asbestos particles when the renovation or construction of the new project begins.
Although you can buy the necessary equipment to analyse the presence of asbestos, it is not recommended that you do it yourself. This analysis should be performed by an expert who has the knowledge to handle hazardous materials without generating any risk to the health of the other occupants of the building. If you do not have the proper training, you will draw the asbestos fibres from the materials, and they will release toxic particles that will harm you and other people if you inhale them.
Have the place reviewed
- Hire a company that performs the analysis.
Get in touch with a company or contractor approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or WorkSafe, who has the training and certifications necessary to handle asbestos and can carry out the analyses in your building. If you get the samples, you will have to send them to an approved laboratory for this type of analysis. Nevertheless, you need to consider the following rules:
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list of certified asbestos management companies; your local council may have a similar list that you can check for the nearest to your location.
- In some places, some laws do not require small and separate houses from other structures to be evaluated by an accredited professional, although this is not always the case.
- If you are interested in completing an accredited training program to analyse asbestos levels, contact the Ministry of Public Health or the agency responsible for environmental protection in your country for more information.
- Prepare the place that you are going to have to analyse.
Because it will be necessary to dig the foundation to check for asbestos, which is risky in itself, you must take certain precautions to ensure the health of all before the contractor performs the analysis. Prepare the structure as follows:
- Turn off any air cons, fans, and other appliances that could cause asbestos to spread in the air.
- Close the room for analysis. Do not let anyone in or out of the room until the contractor has collected the sample.
- If the analysis will take place in a house, it is prudent for everyone to leave the premises while collecting the necessary samples.
- Understand the process that will take place.
When you hire a professional to come to your home to assess asbestos levels, he will follow a very strict protocol to maximise the safety of all residents. Anyone present in the room should wear appropriate protective equipment, including boots, gloves, special clothing (to be discarded after sampling) and a mask containing a high-efficiency filter. The contractor will probably use the following method to perform the assessment:
- Place a sheet of plastic underneath the place where he will collect the samples and secure it tightly with tape.
- Spray this area with water to prevent loose asbestos fibres from spreading into the environment.
- Use a special tool to cut the material and obtain a sample of the fibres.
- Place a small sample of the material to be examined in an airtight container which will then be delivered to the laboratory for analysis.
- Cover the place where you took the sample with a plastic sheet, plasterboard or tape to prevent the fibres from dispersing.
- Place contaminated clothing in an airtight container and dispose of properly.
- Wait to get the results.
The contractor will send the sample to a laboratory accredited by the respective institutions in your country that are in charge of environmental protection. These institutions also have lists of laboratories where you can go to deliver your samples. If they are positive for the presence of asbestos, then you must decide whether to repair the affected area or remove all materials containing asbestos you own.
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