Because of these dangerous side effects, asbestos has been banned in many countries around the globe–but not in the US. If you are a homeowner and you’ve never performed asbestos testing in your home, now is the time to give it a shot.
One option is to call in professionals for asbestos testing. Another is to collect samples yourself and send them in to have them tested. The latter can be a money saver, as long as you know what to do.
How can you collect an asbestos sample and where do you send it? We’re here to help. Read on for our complete guide on asbestos sample testing the DIY way.
What Is Asbestos and What Does It Look Like?
Many are aware that asbestos is dangerous, but few understand what it really is. Asbestos is a natural mineral made up of heat-resistant fibers.
These flexible fibers are also resistant to corrosion and electricity. Before we understood the dangers of asbestos exposure, it seemed like the perfect solution for all sorts of industries, but especially construction.
Depending on the variety of asbestos you’re looking at, it can be:
- Blue (crocidolite)
- Brown (amosite)
- White (chrysotile)
Because the fibers are so small, you may not be able to detect the color with the naked eye, and you certainly won’t see any fibers that break off and float in the air.
Asbestos that is used for things like insulation often looks soft and crumbles easily. However, just because a material doesn’t crumble doesn’t mean that it isn’t asbestos. Asbestos is also used in composite materials to create things like:
- Bathroom tiles
- Ceiling tiles
It wasn’t until 1989 that the federal government issued a partial ban on asbestos products. That means that homes constructed in the first three-quarters of the 20th century are almost guaranteed to contain ample asbestos.
If you have reason to believe that your home contains asbestos, which the EPA describes as a “known carcinogen” that is known to cause “adverse health effects,” keep reading to find out more about taking samples for testing.
Asbestos Samples and Testing
If you have reason to believe that your home may have been built or designed using asbestos, it’s time to consider testing. In 20th-century homes, asbestos is often found in:
- Textured ceilings like popcorn ceilings
- Roofing materials like shingles
Asbestos that has been used to create solid building materials like shingles or siding is far less dangerous so long as it isn’t disturbed.
However, if it starts to break down or you perform a remodel that involves demolition, it quickly becomes dangerous. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, once disturbed, “asbestos material may release asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled into the lungs…increasing the risk of disease.”
Why aren’t more homeowners testing for asbestos?
Due to 21st-century asbestos rules and regulations, many assume that it’s no longer a cause for concern. Others may recognize that they are at risk of asbestos exposure at home, but don’t want to spend the money to perform the test.
Collecting a sample on your own and sending it to us as Alpha Environmental Services is a great way to save money while still making the safest choice for your home and family.
What You Need to Collect Asbestos Samples
To get started, you are going to need the right equipment. Fortunately, the equipment needed to collect samples isn’t expensive. We take care of the testing that involves costly equipment and procedures at our asbestos labs so that you don’t have to.
Before you start looking for potential asbestos samples in your home, we urge you to invest in some basic personal protective equipment (aka PPE). This includes:
- Latex gloves
- Eye protection like clear plastic laboratory goggles
- Face mask, preferably a kN95 or N95, although a surgical mask will do
Now, let’s talk about what you’ll need to collect and store the sample. This includes:
- Sharp knife
- Spray bottle filled with a mixture of water and two drops of dish detergent
- 80-ounce air-tight jar or high-quality Ziplock bag
- Label and permanent marker, like a Sharpie
Finally, you will need spackle or silicone to seal up the exposed area. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions on your sealant and get any tools, such as a putty knife or sponge brush, needed to create the seal.
How to Collect Asbestos Samples
Once you’ve gathered all of your materials, it’s time to collect your sample in a safe and secure way. Follow these step-by-step instructions to collect your sample and clean up the area afterward.
Step One: Preparing Your Sample Area
First, it’s time to start collecting samples for your asbestos test. First, you should clear out the area of any furniture or removable textiles like area rugs or curtains. Then, make sure that everyone else in your household, including pets, has cleared the area as well.
If you are running your HVAC system or nearby fans, turn them off. The goal is to mitigate any spread of loose asbestos fibers, which are exceptionally hazardous to your health. Once this is complete, put on all of the personal protective gear you acquired.
Locate the section of materials that you are going to remove a sample from and spray it with your soapy water mixture. This moisture with the addition of soap will keep any loose threads or fibers from becoming airborne.
Step Two: Collecting Your Sample
Use your sharp knife to cut about three square inches of the material you want to test. A smaller sample may be difficult to test.
Once you have your sample, place it in your jar or bag and seal the container tightly. Use your label and marker to label the container with the type of material you have included, as well as the time and date that you retrieved the sample.
Step Three: Patching Up Your Sample Area
Before you prepare to send or personally deliver your sample, you will need to patch up the section of material that you have sampled. As we mentioned earlier, we recommend using spackle or silicone. Because each of these materials requires different procedures, follow the instructions on the packaging.
Step Four: Cleaning Up Your Sample Area and Delivering Your Sample
Finally, wipe down and sanitize all of the materials used to retrieve the sample. Dispose of your personal protective equipment. If possible, you may also want to change into fresh clothing and wash the clothes you wore to retrieve the sample.
While you can mail your sample, it’s recommended to deliver it to the asbestos lab yourself. This can save both money and time.
Where to Bring Your Asbestos Sample
Once you have your asbestos sample and it is secured in a jar or plastic bag, it’s time to get it to the labs. Keep in mind that not all companies that provide asbestos abatement also have the proper equipment to test for asbestos.
At Alpha Environmental Services we strive to provide full-service environmental improvement services to Portland homeowners and commercial property owners. From asbestos to mold to radon, we’ve got you covered.
Bring us your asbestos sample and we’ll conduct the proper asbestos testing at a low cost. We can give you your results in as little as a few hours.
What to Do Next
What if your asbestos tests come back with positive results? Now that you know that your home was constructed using asbestos, it’s time to act fast. Getting rid of insulation and other materials that contain asbestos will allow you to rest assured that you are not at risk of serious health hazards as your home continues to age and evolve.
While you can collect an asbestos sample on your own, we never encourage DIY asbestos removal. Always hire trained and experienced professionals for your asbestos abatement. Handling these materials requires the proper knowledge, care, and equipment.
When you work with us for asbestos abatement, you can expect the following steps:
- First, we create our plan of attack and demarcate the hazardous area. Then, we seal off any air ducts and take additional steps to protect the surrounding parts of your home.
- On the day we have scheduled with you, we will conduct careful asbestos removal.
- Once removal is complete, we use vacuums and HEPA filtration to remove asbestos particles from surfaces and your indoor air.
All of this starts with a free consultation. Our goal is to ensure that you know exactly what to expect from your asbestos abatement services before signing any contracts.
Get Asbestos Testing in Portland With Alpha Environmental Services
Asbestos testing is crucial in homes and properties that were built before 1989. Alpha Environmental Services in Portland is happy to help home and property owners to make their properties as safe as possible. Use this guide to collect samples that you believe contain asbestos and we’ll take care of the rest.
Ready to set up your asbestos services? Contact us today.