Did you know that in Oregon, lab accreditation is not required for asbestos? It’s true!
Essentially, anyone who lacks knowledge or training can hang out their shingle, say they’re an asbestos lab, and take your money. The buyer better beware. Without accreditation, such as NVLAP, the public has no assurances of lab competency. That is, there is no quality control and results can yield false negatives, potentially adversely affecting the health of you, me, our families, or our employees.
Can you imagine tearing down an asbestos popcorn ceiling because you were wrongly told it didn’t contain asbestos? What a nightmare. On the other hand, false positives are awful too and can cause a building owner to pay for unnecessary and very expensive abatement (removal).
Why is asbestos testing accreditation so important?
So, what do you get with full accreditation? Peace of mind. Peace of mind that your sample was truly analyzed by an expert in a top-notch lab. With accreditation, a laboratory’s work practices fall under heavy scrutiny to ensure high-quality testing. An assessor (like an IRS auditor) walks through periodically to examine equipment performance, record-keeping protocols, and to watch the analysts’ work practices and test their knowledge.
Importantly, the assessor ensures that the lab is running 10% reanalysis, participating in a nationally recognized round robin program, and maintaining a less than 1% error rate from those quality control activities – and this is just the tip of the iceberg! Labs are actually required to do so much more to prove they can be trusted to analyze your samples.
What is Oregon doing about this terrible oversight?
Not much. Currently, the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) is reviewing changes to the rules drafted by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding lab testing credentials. These changes, although well-meaning, are very weak because they allow for a proficiency testing alternative to the much more robust full accreditation. Proficiency testing is no way to assure competency. Only Full Accreditation can best assure lab competency.
Why not the proficiency testing alternative? Because labs would only need to pass a handful of proficiency test samples, called PATs. That’s all – nothing else. PATs merely demonstrate that there is at least one person in the lab that can get the right answer – and that is if they don’t cheat! There is just no practical way of knowing who really analyzed the proficiency samples and certainly no assessor poking around the lab to provide much needed heavy scrutiny. Again, buyer beware.
What can you do to protect your health and the environment?
Choose a fully accredited asbestos lab to lower your risk. Also, although the rulemaking public comment period has ended, write to your local politician or favorite news source. Say “NO” to mere proficiency testing. Demand full accreditation!
Below I’ve provided you with the newly proposed rule for labs to show you the very weak proficiency testing alternative. The EQC makes their decision that affects public and environmental health on September 13-14, 2018.
Beginning January 1, 2021, each sample collected under subsections (a) and (b) must be analyzed by a laboratory with proficiency demonstrated by participation in a nationally recognized laboratory accreditation program for asbestos testing, or participate in, and maintain passing status in a nationally recognized bulk asbestos proficiency testing program to determine whether it is asbestos-containing material.