Most people are aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure but do not realize it only takes a small amount to do damage. In fact, one gram of asbestos can produce billions of tiny, needle-like fibers that can have a harmful effect on human health. That is why asbestos surveys, such as those provided by the accredited inspectors at Precision Environmental Services, are so important.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos was among popular building materials throughout the 20th Century because of its durability and flame-resistant qualities. It was used in plastics, cements, paper, adhesives, and even in some clothing items. It was not until later that asbestos was linked to some serious health-related conditions, including Mesothelioma. Asbestos is commonly found in the following building materials:
- Attic and wall insulation produced containing vermiculite
- Ceiling tiles
- Floor tiles (and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives)
- Roofing and siding shingles
- Textured paint and patching compounds used on walls and ceilings
- Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves protected with asbestos paper, millboard, or cement sheets
- Hot water and steam pipes coated with asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape
- Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets with asbestos insulation
During the 1980s, many asbestos regulations were put in place to guide professionals on how to manage asbestos-containing materials. While many people believe that asbestos is banned in the United States, that is not the case. Asbestos-containing products can still be found in local hardware and building supply stores across the U.S. If asbestos is discovered in a home or commercial property, remediation, or asbestos removal will need to take place.
What is Asbestos Abatement and Remediation?
Common solutions for getting rid of asbestos are abatement and remediation. Sometimes used to describe the same process, abatement can be a part of remediation but there are some differences.
Abatement: During abatement, the asbestos-containing material is either completely removed or encapsulated so it no longer poses a threat to human health.
Remediation: Taking it a step further, remediation addresses the underlying issue of asbestos contamination so you can prevent it from happening in the future.
The detection and removal of asbestos is best performed by a licensed professional, but a home or property owner needs to be sure the company they hire can handle the job. An asbestos removal project falls into three categories:
- Class 1 Work: This type of asbestos removal work is potentially one of the most hazardous as it deals with materials that prevent the loss or gain of heat. That includes thermal insulation, pipes, ducts, tanks, and any sprayed-on or troweled-on surface.
- Class 2 Work: Asbestos removal in the second class of related work includes non-thermal asbestos materials that potentially contain asbestos, including flooring and roofing materials, as well as ceiling tiles, siding, and shingles.
- Class 3 Work: This type of work involves cleaning up asbestos-containing waste and debris, typically caused by construction or repair activities. That includes dusting, vacuuming, and moping the area where any asbestos fibers could accumulate.
Asbestos becomes a threat when it is disturbed and then becomes airborne. At this stage, the fibers in the air are easily inhaled which causes problems in the lungs. In most cases, you cannot tell if a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it. If you think it may be a possibility, treat the material as if it does contain asbestos and do not bother it. Instead, you should leave it to the professionals, like the accredited inspectors at Precision Environmental Services.
Can an Air Quality Test Detect Asbestos?
After the abatement or remediation is performed, another asbestos survey, an air test, should be performed before anyone can enter the area without proper protective gear. An asbestos air clearance test ensures that the remediation or abatement of the asbestos is complete, the area has been properly cleaned, and if the air is at an acceptable level for people to breathe.
The Environmental Protection Agency EPA, and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration have set a method of air quality testing for asbestos and requires a trained professional to properly detect the level of asbestos in the air. There are two different tests when air testing for asbestos:
- Phase Contrast Microscopy PCM
- Transmission Electron Microscopy TEM
Phase Contrast Microscopy involves taking an air sample through a filter and then testing for asbestos fibers. With a PCM test, a homeowner or property owner can expect:
- An air sample from the contaminated area is collected in a sampling container through a filter.
- The collected particles are then examined under a polarized light microscope so that an inspector can differentiate any asbestos from other fibers that may be present in the air sample.
- If asbestos is identified, the concentration of it is then calculated by counting the number of asbestos particles caught in the filter, compared to the fixed sample size collected in the first step.
- Concentration levels are then compared to those standards of the EPA and OSHA.
If a TEM is performed, the air samples are collected and sent to a lab to be tested. There, electrons are added to the sample under a giant microscope that allows the inspector to distinguish between asbestos and nonasbestos fibers. Typically, TEM takes longer and is more costly, but, in most cases, is the more accurate test.
In either process, the asbestos air samples must be tested by a trained professional. Air samples collected for PCM must be tested by a laboratory or analyst that is accredited by the American Industrial Hygiene Association. TEM samples are tested in laboratories accredited by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program.
A successful remediation or abatement should return an asbestos air quality test with less than .01 fibers per cc. It is recommended that the indoor air quality testing be performed by a third party to ensure that testing is performed correctly and without bias.
Starting an Asbestos Survey and Remediation
Enlisting a professional to manage the removal of asbestos, and not attempting to do it yourself, is a smart decision that will keep you safe. Trained professionals will be able to properly test for asbestos, follow all health and safety guidelines, and keep you safe from possible exposure.
At Precision Environmental Services, all inspectors are licensed by the state and final reports meet all city and state requirements. If you need asbestos testing or abatement services, contact Precision Environmental Services at (940) 597-2673.
Frequently Asked Questions
Asbestos has the potential to cause numerous health problems. Exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung damage, lung cancer, mesothelioma which is a cancer of the chest and stomach lining, cancer of the gastrointestinal tract, kidney cancer, throat cancer, scarring of the lungs, and pleural effusions.
One of the reasons you should let a licensed asbestos removal professional handle your asbestos removal project is because they have all necessary protective equipment to keep themselves and their team safe. They’re also highly trained on how to handle asbestos products. Attempting to remove the asbestos yourself could put your life at risk.
If you suspect that your home has mold, then it’s a good idea to consider mold testing and mold inspections. If residential mold is detected, then you’ll want to invest in a mold removal company to help take care of the mold removal. Once the process is complete, you’ll want to repeat the indoor air quality test to make sure the mold problem is now taken care of.
Testing for asbestos generally costs somewhere between $200 and $800 depending on your area, the size of the space being tested, and the type of asbestos tests being done. It’s best to call a local professional to test for airborne particles and asbestos air quality as well as for asbestos building materials. They are trained and experienced and know what to look for as far as a visual inspection and all local, state, and federal regulations.
Indoor air pollution is a serious problem across the country. While most people focus on pollution outside, the truth is that indoor air pollution can be just as devastating or even more so. Quality indoor environmental testing goes beyond a simple asbestos test. A home air quality test also looks at things like allergens, mold, radon, and more. Poor indoor air quality can cause health problems for your entire family.
Asbestos air monitoring tests are used throughout every asbestos-related removal project. This type of asbestos air testing ensures that contractor control measures are consistent during the course of the project. The tests also can be used to flag specific dates and times when asbestos control practices should be evaluated and improved upon.
Any time you’re purchasing an older home or property it’s a good idea to consider asbestos testing. This is particularly true if you don’t know the history of the property. An asbestos inspection and testing may save you and your family from having to endure complex medical conditions due to exposure. Depending on any asbestos materials that are present, you may also want to consider additional asbestos inspections every six to twelve months. This ensures that you aren’t at risk of exposure to asbestos should the materials containing asbestos degrade in any way.
Precision Environmental Services serves the greater Flower Mound, Texas area. Give us a call at (940) 597-2673 for more information.