Asbestos Sampling Kit Instruction Video

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How to Test for Asbestos

Three Parts:

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral composed of thin, tightly packed fibers. Due to its strength, asbestos used to be commonly used in the manufacturing of insulation, fireproofing, and other construction materials. Unfortunately, asbestos has been found to pose a serious health risk when its fibers become loose and airborne, since breathing them in can cause scarring of the tissue lining the lungs (mesothelioma) and even lung cancer. You can check for signs of asbestos on your own, but testing should be done by a certified professional using special equipment. If asbestos is present, hire a contractor to repair or remove the materials that contain it to ensure the safety of people using the building.


Checking for Signs of Asbestos

  1. Determine when the building in question was constructed.Asbestos was widely used between 1920 and 1989, after which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began regulating materials containing asbestos. Asbestos can most commonly be found in buildings, but also in gas heaters, hair dryers, some clothing and automotive brakes.
    • Walls, flooring, pipes, textured paints, insulation, fireproofing materials, pipes, electric wiring, and even chalkboards constructed between 1920 and 1989 may contain asbestos. If the building was constructed between 1920 and 1989, chances are something in the building was constructed with materials containing asbestos.
    • Few materials made today are constructed with asbestos. Items that do contain asbestos are now labeled as such.
  2. See if there are signs of disturbed asbestos materials.You can't tell whether an item contains asbestos just by looking at it. Instead, look for warning signs that construction materials are degrading. Asbestos isn't dangerous when it's still in good condition, but when it starts to break down and the fibers are released in the air, it becomes toxic. Look for signs of older materials that have become worn out or damaged.
    • Disintegrating pipes, insulation, walls, tiles, vinyl flooring, stovetop pads, and other older materials that have been present in the building since its construction are signs to look out for.
    • Look for cracks, dusty areas and spots where the material seems to be in the process of breaking down and falling apart.
  3. Decide whether to get the area tested.If you don't see signs of construction materials degrading, you might not need to get the area tested, since asbestos is only dangerous when it becomes airborne. However, if you do see signs of degrading materials, or if you simply want to err on the side of safety, you should opt to get the area tested by a professional who has been certified to test for and handle asbestos safely.
    • Another scenario in which you might want to get the area tested is if you plan to do new construction work or replace old materials. Even if the materials are still in good shape, they'll get disturbed during the construction process and may release fibers into the air.
    • While you could purchase the equipment required to conduct asbestos testing, it is not recommended that you try this on your own. Asbestos testing should be conducted by someone who has gone through training and knows how to handle the material without causing a health hazard for the occupants of the building. If you haven't been trained, you could end up disturbing the asbestos and breathing it in or putting other people at risk of doing so.

Having the Area Tested

  1. Hire a contractor to do the testing.Contact an EPA-approved contractor who is trained and licensed in handling asbestos to analyze the suspected particles, as well as filing the necessary paperwork required by the EPA. If you were to collect the samples yourself, you'd still have to give the samples to an EPA-certified laboratory for analysis, and give them the protective gear you wore during the collection for proper disposal.
    • The EPA has provided a list of certified contractors by state at .
    • Federal law does not require asbestos testing done in single-family, detached homes to be conducted by an accredited professional, although some individual states require it.
    • If you're interested in completing an asbestos professional training program, contact your state or local health department or regional EPA office for more information.
  2. Prepare for the area to be tested.Since the act of testing for asbestos can disturb the material and potentially create a hazard, you should take a few precautions to ensure everyone's safety before the certified contractor conducts the test. Prepare the building as follows:
    • Stop any air conditioning, fans, or ventilation systems that could circulate asbestos in the air.
    • Plan to close off the area; don't let anyone in or out of the room being sampled during the collection.
    • If the testing is being done in a home, it might be prudent to have everyone leave the house at the time of the testing.
  3. Understand the testing procedure.When you hire an EPA-certified contractor to come to your house to test for asbestos, a certain protocol will be followed to maximize safety. Anyone in the room at the time of testing should put on protective clothing and gear, including protective gloves, boots, and clothes which can be disposed of after collecting samples, and a face mask including a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. The contractor will probably use the following testing method:
    • Plastic sheeting will be laid sheeting below the area where samples will be taken and secured with tape.
    • The area to be tested will be sprayed with water to keep loose fibers from getting in the air.
    • A tool is used to cut into the substance to be tested to get a sample of fibers.
    • A small sample of the material which might be or contain asbestos is placed in a sealable container to be sent to a lab for testing.
    • The area where the sample was taken is patched with plastic sheet, drywall, or tape to prevent suspected fibers from spreading.
    • Protective gear clothing contaminated by the material is placed in a sealed container to be disposed of properly.
  4. Wait for test results.The material sample should be sent to an asbestos analysis lab accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) at the National Institute of Standards and technology (NIST). A list of laboratories is available at . If the sample tests positive for asbestos, you'll need to decide whether to repair the area or remove the materials that contain asbestos from the property.

Dealing With Asbestos

  1. Have the disturbed material repaired.Repairs to materials that contain asbestos usually involved either sealing or covering the area to prevent fibers from being released into the air. With such a dangerous carcinogen present, it might seem strange to repair it instead of removing it, but repair is actually the safest option. Removing the materials tends to disturb them more, posing a greater health risk, while repairing the materials to contain the asbestos allows you to live with the materials safely.
    • Repairs should be conducted by a certified professional to ensure they are done properly. In most cases, a special sealant or covering is applied to the area to keep it from breaking down. Floors containing asbestos might be covered with new flooring to keep fibers from entering the air.
    • Repairs are less expensive than removal, and usually the best all-around option. However, if the materials are already quite damaged, and they'll eventually need to be removed, it's better to spring for removal right away. Applying a sealant or covering can make it more difficult to remove the materials later.
  2. Live safely with materials that contain asbestos.After repairs have been conducted, it's still important to be careful around the materials that contain asbestos. Be cautious around the materials in question so you don't end up disturbing them and releasing the asbestos fibers. Take the following measures to live safely with asbestos:
    • Keep activities to a minimum in the areas that have asbestos. For example, if the walls in your basement contain asbestos, don't spend more time than necessary there.
    • Don't saw, sand, scrape, drill, or otherwise damage materials that contain asbestos, even after sealant has been applied.
    • Don't use abrasive cleaning materials on materials that have asbestos.
    • Don't vacuum or sweep debris on the floor that might contain asbestos.
    • If further damage occurs, have it repaired by a professional.
  3. Consider asbestos removal.If you'd simply prefer not to have asbestos-containing materials in the building, you can opt for removal instead of repair. Hire a contractor who has been trained by the EPA. The removal process is more dangerous than the repair process, and if done improperly it can pose a serious health risk to individuals using the building.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    Can I sue someone who neglected to reveal the presence of asbestos when a contract was negotiated?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, but you'd need to prove the person was aware of the issue.
  • Question
    I have asked a vendor if I can have an asbestos survey done on a property I recently put an offer on. I have already been told the garage contains asbestos on the roof, but he won't allow a survey to be carried out. What can I do?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    I would say that's a good reason for you not to purchase the house. The vendor should be open and honest and should not have a problem with you wanting to inspect any aspect of the house before you buy it. If he doesn't allow it, that's shady.
  • Question
    Should every room with popcorn ceilings be tested?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    If it was built before 1989 and has no documentation available from the contractor who installed it, it is a good and inexpensive idea. Then you will know, at least, not to disturb it in any way, but I would recommend sealing or removal by a certified contractor.
  • Question
    What does it cost to have a sample tested?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    I saw a test at Home Depot for and then a fee to the lab doing the testing.
  • Question
    I have been in rooms that have a very odd smell. I know there is asbestos in the rooms. But I have been in rooms that have asbestos and it doesn't smell. Does asbestos smell?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Asbestos is odorless, as it is an inert mineral. If the smell is musty and the room feels damp then you are probably smelling mold, which in itself can cause health issues.
  • Question
    How do I test for asbestos? Do I need to test the dust?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Normally, asbestos surveyors make use of an air-sampling pump to draw the suspected asbestos from the surrounding air and analyse it in a laboratory for the presence of asbestos.
  • Question
    Can flooring containing asbestos be covered with wall to wall carpeting as a solution?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Asbestos is only an issue when it is fragmented and the particles become airborne. If it's a rental property and there is a legal obligation to remove asbestos, you may be opening yourself up to litigation or even criminal charges. If it's a private residence, I don't see an issue as long as the flooring is kept intact.
  • Question
    I believe where I am working has asbestos. Everyone is getting sick and my boss has done nothing. I have reported this to OSHA. If I have a picture can you tell if it is asbestos?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    That's not how asbestos works. It takes years for the damage to show and be experienced. Maybe the building has mold or sick building syndrome -- look up the effects of these and see if they resonate with your experience.
  • Question
    How can I identify asbestos insulation visually?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You can't identify it without special equipment. You can identify material that might contain or might be asbestos, but you will only know for sure by sending a sample of it to be tested.
  • Question
    Does a popcorn ceiling contain asbestos?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    The key words here are "Possible asbestos containing materials" - which is almost everything with which a house is built. You need to take a sample to a lab, where staff will look at the material under a very special and expensive microscope. Then and only then can they declare whether or not the material in question does contain asbestos fibers.
Unanswered Questions
  • Can I paint over a popcorn ceiling if it might contain asbestos?
  • Are there any ways to test for asbestos in the air without calling in a professional?
  • We have a house built in 1904 that we want to demolish. If it contains asbestos when we test it, where in Saskatchewan do we have it taken to?
  • Can aluminium sidling be installed over asbestos shingles?
  • How do I dispose of asbestos?
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Quick Summary

If you want to test for asbestos, keep in mind that asbestos is only dangerous when it degrades and becomes airborne. Therefore, if you don't see signs of disintegrating pipes, insulation, walls, vinyl flooring, or other old materials in your home, testing for asbestos may not be necessary. If you do see signs of disintegrating materials, or if you just want to be safe, hire an approved contractor to come and test the area.

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