Testing for Asbestos: Better Safe Than Sorry


Asbestos is a word used to refer to any of six naturally occurring minerals made of silicon. All of these minerals are composed of long, thin, fibrous crystals, which can be woven into fabrics.  

Asbestos is highly resistant to fire and other sources of heat, and it strengthens building materials. As such, it was used in insulation, flooring, the creation of concrete, ductwork, and a variety of other materials used in building construction.  

However, the use of asbestos comes at a heavy price. When in a solid form, asbestos is not dangerous, but, when materials including asbestos are destroyed, they create a highly abrasive dust which can damage the lungs.  

Diseases that are linked to asbestos dust include mesothelioma (a type of cancer), pleuritis, asbestosis, pleural effusions, pleural placks, COPD, and pleural thickening. Since asbestos was used in a wide variety of construction materials until the 1980s, and continues to be used in some capacity in construction today, asbestos may be found in any part of a building except its wood.   

As such, testing for the use of asbestos is very important when one is planning to move into or demolish a house that may contain asbestos in the materials that were used to build it. In order to test for asbestos, one should first make sure that the area you are investigating will not be disturbed.  

Do not clean the area, and make sure that wind from fans, air conditioning, and the windows will not be able to stir up asbestos dust. Next, don protective gear, including masks, gloves, coveralls, and shoe covers, all of which should be disposable. Once this is done, cover the area in plastic sheeting and spray it with water, to ensure that any disturbed dust settles quickly.   

Then isolate a material sample you want to test, preferably between 5 and 100 grams, spray it with water, transfer it to a zip-locked bag with pliers, and seal and label the bag. After cleaning up the area you took the sample from, send the sample to an EPA-certified asbestos-testing lab. If the results are positive, find an EPA-certified contractor to remove the asbestos. This is a job for which a specialist is needed. If you follow these simple steps, you will be able to protect yourself from the danger of asbestos in your home. 

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