How to Properly Test for Asbestos: Tips and Risks to Know

by | Jan 11, 2023 | Asbestos | 0 comments

Most people know enough about asbestos to know it’s not something you want to find in your home or commercial building. But if you’ve never dealt with asbestos on your property or worked in a field like construction or public health, you may not be aware of how common it is to find it in your home or the health and safety concerns that it poses.

 

Fortunately, asbestos and its associated risks can be remedied, either by removal or repair (which may involve encapsulation or enclosure). But in order to do this, testing must occur so you can identify whether or not you actually have asbestos, and how much. While testing should be performed by an accredited laboratory, you can safely collect your own sample and hand-deliver or mail it in for testing, provided you do so safely and carefully.

 

In this article, we’ll discuss the process of collecting an asbestos sample yourself and tips you should know about before you start.

When Should You Test for Asbestos?

asian male scientists wearing glasses and a mak looking at a microscope

Asbestos is a heat-resistant fibrous mineral that has historically been used in the production of fire-resistant and insulating material. It’s not unusual for asbestos to be discovered in homes as well as in schools and commercial or residential buildings.

 

The most common asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) include, but are not limited to:

 

  • Attic and wall insulation material
  • Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring
  • Shingles for roofing and siding
  • Textured paints and popcorn ceilings
  • Heat-resistant fabrics
  • Coatings of hot-water and steam pipes
  • Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets

 

In general, you can’t tell visually whether a material contains asbestos. When inhaled, asbestos can be hazardous to human health. Because there’s an increased health risk when ACMs are disturbed or if fibers are released into the air, it’s important to test for asbestos if:

 

  1. You notice chipping, cracking, or deteriorating building materials in your home
  2. You’re planning a remodeling project that may disturb building materials

Is DIY Asbestos Sampling Safe?

While it’s important that testing and analysis are performed by a qualified, accredited laboratory like JSE Labs, in most cases, you can safely collect your own sample. JSE makes it convenient and easy to take a sample and either bring it to us in person or send it by mail for processing. As long as you follow all the relevant safety precautions and approach the sampling process slowly and carefully, it’s perfectly safe. Keep reading to learn how to take a sample safely.

 

You can find DIY sampling kits online or at your local home-improvement store, which can help make the process easier and more straightforward. However, we don’t recommend that you use a completely do-it-yourself testing kit. Trying to analyze your own sample or sending it to a laboratory without the proper accreditation isn’t advisable, since this may compromise the reliability and accuracy of your results.

 

While bulk asbestos analysis is generally performed using the EPA 600 method, interpretations may vary significantly, particularly with matrix interference. Samples that have a lot of binders, such as shingles or vinyl composite tile flooring make fiber identification difficult. Different laboratories have different standards and procedures within the EPA 600 method for binder/matrix interference reduction. JSE Labs is accredited and qualified to perform asbestos analysis, and we use ashing and acid washing on our samples because this has been proven to produce more accurate VAE results.

 

How To Safely Sample for Asbestos Yourself

room being prepared for asbestos testing

At JSE Labs, we encourage you to take your own sample and deliver or mail it to us for processing, testing, and analysis. We make this process simple, convenient, and quick. We adhere to the highest standards for accuracy and reliability and we offer same-day results as well as 1, 2, and 3 day turnaround options to meet your needs and budget. 

 

In general, we need a sample consisting of at least two square inches of hard material or two tablespoons of loose material for complete analysis. Vermiculite attic insulation material is the one exception; at least one cup of material is required in this case. Read our complete guide on How To Collect an Asbestos Sample to learn more about sampling specific suspect materials, and don’t hesitate to contact us with specific sampling questions!

Tips for Safe Sampling, Containerizing, & Cleanup

The most important part of DIY asbestos sampling is protecting your health and that of anyone else in the home or building. Make sure you don’t inhale any dust! Here are some tips to follow:

 

  • Wear gloves and a face mask (N95 or Respirator is recommended) if you have one.
  • If possible, protect carpets, furniture, and other fabric or upholstery using plastic sheeting.
  • Containerize your sample in an airtight container, such as a ziplock bag. Double-bagging is advisable for dusty materials like popcorn ceiling, drywall, or blown-in attic insulation.
  • Wet-wipe any dust that is generated during the sampling process using soapy water.
  • Also wet-wipe any tools you used to obtain the sample.
  • Avoid any methods of cleanup that could disturb dust, such as vacuuming.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly when you’re finished.

How To Submit Your Sample for Testing

inspector looking at asbestos to do asbestos testing

Once you have taken and containerized your sample, you’re welcome to hand-deliver it to our Milwaukie laboratory, or you can use a delivery service such as USPS, FedEx, or UPS to mail it to 3315 SE Harrison St. Milwaukie, OR 97222.

 

Remember that all samples must be containerized in a ziplock bag or other airtight container before entering the lobby. When placing samples in a mailer, ensure they’re properly shut tight. You must also fill out a Chain of Custody form (COC) and submit it with your sample. 

 

We’re always more than happy to answer any questions you have about submitting your sample or filling out the COC form!

JSE Labs: Asbestos Testing You Can Count On

two scientists doing asbestos testing

If you need fast, reliable asbestos testing, we’re here to help! JSE Labs is an accredited environmental laboratory that has been serving residential and commercial property owners in the Portland area since 2002. We can provide you with the expert asbestos detection and analysis you need.

 

Contact us today to get started.

 

Jennifer Malgren

Jennifer Malgren

Jennifer is the Laboratory Manager of JSE Labs, and holds a BS in Environmental Studies & Science from Portland State University. She is an avid learner and enjoys exploring new topics related to natural processes and the environment. She has experience analyzing hazardous materials, including asbestos and lead, and is committed to promoting safe and sustainable practices in the workplace and beyond. When not in the laboratory, Jennifer can be found exploring the Pacific Northwest with her Catahoula Leopard Dog, Oliver, or volunteering locally.

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