How to Collect an Asbestos Sample
Hygiene and Clean-Up when Collecting Your Asbestos Test Sample
It’s imperative that good hygiene practices are always adhered to when working with suspect asbestos-containing materials. Don’t inhale the dust! Wet-wipe up any dust generated during the sampling process, using soapy water. Refrain from cleanup methods that could make the dust airborne, such as vacuuming. If possible, use plastic sheeting over carpet and furniture to limit dust exposure. Once sampling is complete, wet wipe your tools, as well as the immediate area, and wash your hands thoroughly.
Below you’ll find included additional information about how to sample common suspect asbestos-containing materials. For questions regarding specific materials, or if you need assistance with your sampling please do not hesitate to contact us!
If you’re looking for a full site survey, or don’t know where to start, contact our field department!
How to Containerize and Deliver Your Asbestos Test Sample
JSE Labs requires all samples to be submitted in airtight containers, such as ziplock bags. Samples must be containerized before entering the lobby. We strongly recommend avoiding zippered ziplock bags. Double bagging is a good idea for dustier materials such as popcorn ceiling or blown-in attic insulation.
When placing the baggies in a mailer, make sure that they are shut tight. A Chain of Custody form (COC) is required to be submitted with all samples or on-site at our Milwaukie location. JSE’s friendly staff is always willing to help answer any questions you may have regarding sample submission or the Chain of Custody form. Need help mailing a sample? Start here!
Asbestos Test Sample Size
In general, the laboratory needs at least two square inches of hard material, or at least two tablespoons (tbsp) of loose material to complete analysis. Vermiculite attic insulation is the exception, where at least one cup of material is required to perform analysis.
Sampling Specific Suspect Materials
How to Collect a Flooring Sample for Asbestos Analysis
When collecting a flooring sample for asbestos analysis, sample from the top down to substrate. Include any paper backing or mastic (glue). A sheet vinyl floor generally consists of three layers: the upper vinyl surface, a felt backing, and mastic. A floor tile is usually two layers, the tile and the mastic. Sometimes there is a leveling compound, or a vapor barrier present underneath a vinyl or floor tile. All materials from the vinyl/tile, down to the subfloor are considered suspect for asbestos and should be included in the sample. Cut the material out with a hammer and wood chisel (a favorite among our inspectors), carpet blade, or any tool that will work for you.
In order to know if you have made it down to the subfloor (substrate), determine how many generations of flooring lie beneath the surface. You may notice that there is a slight elevation change when you enter the room. You may see the original floor at the lowest level, then wood decking above that original, and still more flooring above that. Whatever the case, ensure your sample includes all flooring down to the subfloor.
How to Collect Popcorn Texture for Asbestos Analysis
Generally, a sample needs to be representative of the entire area. If you suspect that there was an addition to the building, and that the popcorn texture (also known as popcorn ceiling) in one location may have been applied at a different time than the other, then it may be necessary to take two samples, one from each location.
It is best to capture at least a couple of samples per location. Preferably three, because textures are usually not homogeneously distributed, even if it was all applied at the same time. When collecting multiple samples from one location, bag them separately to avoid potential cross-contamination.
Popcorn texture can be particularly crumbly when sampling. Many people prefer to dampen the sample area in order to avoid disturbing any potential fibers within the sample. Due to the somewhat brittle nature of popcorn texture, it may prove challenging to collect two square inches worth of material. In this case, at least two tablespoons will be sufficient for analysis.
How to Collect Vermiculite Insulation for Asbestos Analysis
JSE Labs requires at least two cups of sample material in order to make a qualitative determination as to the presence or absence of asbestos. To collect a vermiculite sample, invert a plastic ziplock gallon-sized bag over your hand, and do your best to scoop material from the bottom of the material, capturing both the larger materials as well as the settled dust toward the bottom. Asbestos often occurs as smaller, heavier grains that settle to the bottom of the attic floor or wall cavity. Grab around the material, pull the bag around it, and seal.
How to Collect Wallboard Samples for Asbestos Analysis
For wall and ceiling systems, make sure to sample through the material so that an identifiable cross-section is collected. For example, a cross-section of wallboard might have a painted textured surface followed by layers of tape, joint compound, brown paper wrap, and gypsum board.
Sampling from an inside corner where two pieces of drywall are seamed with mud(joint compound) and tape is recommended. Similar to popcorn texture, textures and joint compounds in wallboard systems are usually not homogeneously distributed, even if it was applied at the same time. It is best to capture a couple of areas by taking multiple samples, preferably three. If collecting multiple samples of the same material, bag them separately to avoid potential cross-contamination.
How to Collect Samples from Plaster Systems for Asbestos Analysis
Plaster systems may contain a fine coat of painted texture on the surface, followed by a coarser-grained “scratch” or “skim” coat over a wood lathe and metal screen. The wood and metal do not need to be included in the sample.
When sampling from a plaster system, do your best to capture the paint and plaster together in order to maintain the integrity of the layering. Collect approximately 2 square inches, and place the sample in an airtight container, such as a ziplock bag.