Category Archives: Home Inspections

The Importance of Asbestos Testing

Asbestos is a dangerous material that can cause health complications like lung cancer and mesothelioma when fibers are inhaled. Undisturbed asbestos in good condition is unlikely to pose a risk, but renovation activities can disturb existing asbestos, causing it to become airborne. Testing techniques range from polarized light microscopy to more advanced electron microscope analysis. Bulk material testing is often used to evaluate whether asbestos abatement was effective.

Asbestos Testing

Asbestos Testing Colorado Springs can be used to identify and classify the types of asbestos contained in building materials. It can also be conducted on bulk materials such as soil, rock, and dust that have been disturbed during a remodel or repair project. These tests are important because contaminated materials that may contain asbestos can pose a health risk to workers and residents of the home or business.

Whether asbestos is suspected during a home renovation or a large commercial construction project, accurate classification of the type of fibers present is critical. Uncertainty over the types of fibers can cause construction projects to be put on hold, which can ultimately delay completion and cost money.

To determine the types of fibers in a sample, a licensed asbestos laboratory will use one of several techniques. These include phase contrast microscopy (PCM) and polarized light microscopy (PLM). Both of these optical microscopy methods can evaluate the morphology of fibers, but they can’t determine their elemental composition. This limits their utility and can lead to false-positive results.

Another commonly used technique is X-ray diffraction (XRD). This method uses an X-ray beam to examine the size and shape of mineral particles. It can determine the presence of asbestos in bulk materials, but it is not very reliable for evaluating the morphology of individual fibers.

The most advanced optical microscope available to asbestos laboratories is the transmission electron microscope (TEM). This high-resolution microscopy method can show objects that are far too small for the human eye and can magnify a sample up to 1000 times its original size. Combined with energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) capabilities, TEM is the preferred analysis method for bulk materials and most airborne samples.

To safely test building materials for asbestos, a certified asbestos inspector will collect a small sample of the material and label it appropriately. It should then be sealed in an airtight container. The sample can then be shipped or brought to a licensed lab for analysis. Regardless of the analytical method used, a complete chain of custody will be maintained for each set of samples. A completed chain of custody will include the name and signature of the person relinquishing the samples to the laboratory.

Sample Collection

A key component of the asbestos testing process is thorough sampling and inspection. This involves collecting small pieces of material for laboratory analysis to identify if the suspect materials contain asbestos above the allowed limits. This information can help homeowners and business owners determine whether to undergo a costly and lengthy asbestos abatement project before starting any renovations or repairs in the affected areas. Various regulations stipulate that different types of materials require different numbers of samples to be tested.

During the sample collection process, it is important to use proper safety precautions. This includes wearing respiratory protective equipment and putting down a plastic sheet or drop cloth to prevent contamination of the area beyond the area being sampled. It is also important to shut down any heating and cooling systems in the area being sampled, as well as any fans, to minimize the spread of any released asbestos fibers.

Once a small piece of the suspect material is taken, it should be put into a clean, resealable plastic bag with an asbestos caution warning attached. The bag should then be double-bagged to ensure no asbestos fibers can escape during storage and transport. The location, date, and description of the sample should be recorded on the bag as well.

To prepare the sample for microscope analysis, a small amount of tetrahydrofuran (THF) is added to the material. The THF dissolves the organic matrix of the material, leaving behind a mineral powder that can be analyzed under a microscope.

The color of the powder is compared to that of a standard asbestos mineral under the microscope. If the color of the mineral matches, the sample is identified as asbestos. If the mineral is not found to match, further examination with Becke’s line, dispersion stain, or TEM is required for a definitive identification.

In some cases, the reactivity of the mineral may need to be evaluated as well. This is done by a procedure known as “heating the sample.” Typically, this involves heating the sample to 600 °C for 1 to 2 hours. The resulting structural change in the mineral can be observed under crossed polars, and an estimate of the percentage of asbestos can be made.


Asbestos testing involves a number of techniques to identify asbestos-containing materials. The most common are phase contrast polarized light microscopy (PLM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The PLM method determines the type of fibers found in a sample by their morphology. While this is a good method for identifying most types of asbestos, it does not provide any information about the chemical composition of those fibers. This lack of knowledge can lead to the misclassification of samples, which can result in costly material removal projects that may not be necessary.

Asbestos fibers can also be identified by scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS). This technology provides detailed information about the chemical composition of asbestos-containing materials, which helps to differentiate them from non-asbestos materials. With the help of a SEM-EDS system, labs can rapidly confirm the presence of asbestos minerals in a sample and quickly determine the type of fibers present in the sample. This increases the certainty of asbestos tests, which enables construction projects to proceed more quickly.

The traditional hand sampling and microscopy analysis are still very important parts of the asbestos test process. It is especially critical to ensure that no hidden areas of a building are overlooked during an inspection. More recently, new technologies like laser particle counters have been developed that allow real-time data to be obtained without the need for a microscope. These devices can be used to assess air quality in homes and businesses, providing important information about the conditions inside a home or workplace.

It is also important to understand that many regulations stipulate specific numbers of samples to be taken from each type of material tested. These sample sizes often require the use of more labor-intensive methods of analysis, such as 400-point counting (EPA Method 600/R-93/116). This method increases accuracy and precision over a visual estimate and is commonly used to comply with NESHAP regulations that require the use of point counting on samples with low asbestos concentrations.


Once a popular building material due to its fire resistance and sound absorption properties, asbestos has now been found to pose a health hazard. This has led to regulations requiring testing for asbestos in certain circumstances and industries. The testing process is comprehensive and requires specialized training and certification. The results of the test determine whether a project must follow strict mitigation protocols and disposal guidelines to protect workers and the public.

The survey and inspection must be performed by an EPA-certified professional and documented in the asbestos survey report. The survey must identify all construction materials in the facility that may contain asbestos and document which construction materials do not contain asbestos. The survey also identifies and quantifies the amount of ACM that must be removed prior to demolition or renovation activities that may disturb the ACM and release asbestos fibers into the ambient air.

Whenever the ACM is disturbed, the facility must use a controlled demolition method and follow all applicable NESHAP regulations for workers to be trained to work safely with the ACM. Workers must wear respirators when entering regulated areas and be supervised by a qualified asbestos AHERA inspector or a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). In addition, all personnel working in the area must receive appropriate medical monitoring and have their work area monitored for airborne contamination. The survey must be conducted at the beginning of each work activity, and the results must be recorded on an asbestos monitoring form.

The affected area and the number of people who will be in the area where ACM is being disturbed determine whether it must be reported or filed. Generally, it is only necessary to file for a renovation project if ACM is expected to be disturbed more than once and the amount of ACM being removed is more than 10 square feet. For more information about filing instructions, please see Asbestos Forms and Filing Instructions.

Asbestos testing is recommended any time a homeowner finds damaged or old asbestos materials in their home. Since it can’t be told if something has asbestos just by looking at it or smelling it, it’s important to have the material tested. If the material is in good shape and will not be disturbed in the future, it may be able to be encapsulated by a certified contractor or left alone. It should be regularly checked and monitored, though, to ensure that it doesn’t deteriorate and become exposed.