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how to test for asbestos
How to Test For Asbestos: A Step-by-Step Guide
July 15, 2019

Maybe you’ve heard of asbestos. It’s that fluffy-looking fiber that reminds you of woolly pillow stuffing. But this natural material can create significant health hazards to you and your family if found inside your home.

Don’t run the risk of exposing your loved ones. Read this step-by-step guide on how to test for asbestos. Then you can keep your home the “home sweet home” that it is.

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a group of silicate minerals that have long, thin fibers. Although these fibers are flexible and soft, they’re resistant to corrosion and heat. Natural asbestos land deposits are located all over the world.

Asbestos becomes dangerous when they’re airborne and people can inhale them. Inhaling asbestos fibers causes scarring and inflammation. Many diseases and cancers are caused by asbestos exposure.

Where Can You Find Asbestos?

Asbestos has long been used in many building construction materials because of its strength and heat resistance. Between the 1920s and 1980s, asbestos was routinely used to make materials like roofing shingles, cement products, and floor tiles.

When Should I Do Asbestos Testing?

If you’re doing renovation or remediation on a building constructed before 1989, you should test for asbestos. The only way to be sure if you have any asbestos-containing material (ACM) is to collect a sample. Then you can send it to a laboratory certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for further analysis.

How to Test For Asbestos

Removing asbestos samples takes rigorous precautions to avoid exposure. In some US states, only EPA-certified contractors can remove samples. If your state allows you to gather samples, you can find asbestos test kits online or at hardware stores.

You can also collect samples using everyday items such as gloves and a spray bottle. Here is a list of steps on how to carefully collect a sample:

  1. Turn off the airflow inside the room where you plan to collect your sample. Close all windows and doors. Your goal is to limit any circulating asbestos fibers from becoming airborne;
  2. Place plastic sheeting on the floor and walls. Dispose of this sheeting when your sampling is done;
  3. Wear a disposable coverall suit. Hardware stores sell these coveralls in their paint department. Put on goggles, a face mask, and latex gloves;
  4. Fill a spray bottle with water. Spray your sample area repeatedly until there is water mist throughout the room;
  5. Remove a sample of building material you suspect contains asbestos. You can use a paint scraper or chisel, or simply lift the contaminated materials out. Try to collect a sample that weighs around four ounces;
  6. Place the sample in a self-sealing polythene bag. Label the bag with your name, the date and time you collected the sample; and
  7. Send the sample to an EPA-certified, asbestos-testing lab. Stay out of the infected area until you have received your lab results. If the lab results are positive, you can get a cost estimate for asbestos removal by licensed contractors.

Next Steps

Do you have a home construction project coming up soon? Was your home built before 1989? If so, asbestos testing could be the smartest thing you can do to keep your family safe. Check to see if your state requires EPA-licensed contractors to remove asbestos samples. If not, follow these steps listed above to collect your sample in the safest way possible.

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