Asbestos is made up of groups of mineral fibers naturally present in the earth. Known for its strength, durability, and resistance to fire and water, asbestos was used commonly in various construction applications for the greater part of the 20th century. Asbestos is a thermal and acoustic insulator. It was used to make combustible objects flame retardant. Asbestos fibers are flexible and elastic, long lasting, and can be spun or woven.
WHY IS ASBESTOS BAD FOR YOU?
The risk of asbestos depends on the type of product in which it has been incorporated and its state of degradation. Asbestos can be hazardous to human health because microscopic particles are biologically persistent, and can be inhaled. Its exposure is linked to higher rates of cancer and incurable asbestos-related illnesses.
In the form of tiny fibers, asbestos is released into the air and lodges itself in the lungs. Its indestructible nature makes it difficult or impossible to expel. Lethal diseases, such as asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma (pleural cancer) can develop. The most harmful effects of asbestos and all its symptoms on the human body sometimes do not appear for 20 years or more after exposure. Asbestos is one of the leading occupational causes of death.
Because of these adverse effects, exposure to asbestos must be controlled and reduced below legal thresholds. The U.S. government passed the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) in 1986, which recognizes six types of asbestos (chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, actinolite and anthophyllite) from two general categories (amphiboles and serpentines).
Buildings constructed prior to 1980 often have flooring, ceilings, and pipes made with asbestos. You cannot tell if a product is made with asbestos without some form of professional analysis. Demolition and renovation are the primarily ways to disturb components made with asbestos in the home, as it is “friable” (easily crumbled) and agitated into harmful dust.
Eurofins is able to isolate, identify and quantify all types of asbestos in various types of materials such as cements, vermiculite, insulating materials, as well as slabs floor and ceiling.
SAMPLING AND ANALYSIS OF ASBESTOS
Eurofins analyzes all layers of wallboard/joint compounds, plasters, and roofing samples as required by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP). EPA and OSHA have specific reporting requirements. If clients do not specify testing standards, Eurofins adds a comment specifying the layer that asbestos was identified.
METHODOLOGY USED FOR ASBESTOS TESTING
Analytical Methods by PLM
POLARIZED LIGHT MICROSCOPY
Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) is the utmost accepted method by the EPA and is the most accepted method for initial analysis of bulk building materials for asbestos content. By utilizing the polarized light microscope, analysts test the optical properties of the samples’ fibrous components and provide both the asbestos type and estimated percentages in the sample material.
POLARIZED LIGHT MICROSCOPY POINT COUNT
Polarized Light Microscopy Point Count determines the type of asbestos present and point counts quantify the percentage of asbestos. This method is primarily used to supplement the original PLM calibrated visual estimate.
POLARIZED LIGHT MICROSCOPY GRAVIMETRIC POINT COUNT
Polarized Light Microscopy Gravimetric Point Count utilizes acid and muffle furnace to create residue that allows the lab to get a percentage of asbestos in the residue based on point count method.
Analytical Methods by TEM
TRANSMISSION ELECTRON MICROSCOPY (TEM) CHATFIELD
Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) Chatfield cooks the sample to create a residue followed by acid treatment and asbestos results are a derivative of the percentage of asbestos in the residue. This method is approved by the EPA to confirm low-level concentrations of asbestos in non-friable organically bound and some friable bulk building materials.
TRANSMISSION ELECTRON MICROSCOPY AIR AHERA (Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act)
This method is primarily utilized for the final clearance of asbestos remediation area in public schools. It was developed and published by the EPA for clearance of air samples in schools. For the results to be effective, specific sample protocol consistent with AHERA must be followed. You can find these details on the EPA website.
Analytical Method by PCM
PHASE CONTRAST MICROSCOPY (PCM)
Phase Contrast Microscopy (PCM) is performed on air filter samples that have been collected to monitor asbestos conditions prior to, during, and after asbestos remediation. THE PCM analyst counts fibers that are present on the filters in order to give a time-weighted average of the concentration of those fibers for the volume of air sampled. PCM results are fiber concentrations and do not distinguish between asbestos and non-asbestos fibers.