What is Asbestos Sampling?

Emma Lloyd

Asbestos sampling is a procedure that is carried out on materials that are suspected to contain asbestos. Following the sampling procedure, the samples are tested to determine whether or not they contain asbestos. This is important for two reasons. The first is that asbestos use was widespread in construction materials prior to the 1980s. The second reason is that asbestos is a highly toxic substance which, when inhaled, can lead to the development of a chronic lung disease called asbestosis, as well as mesothelioma cancer.

The health risks associated with asbestos exposure mean that safety precautions are a vital measure when carrying out asbestos sampling.
The health risks associated with asbestos exposure mean that safety precautions are a vital measure when carrying out asbestos sampling.

Homeowners and business owners alike may find it necessary to carry out asbestos sampling, because asbestos-containing materials deteriorate as they age. This is a health risk because deteriorating asbestos materials release airborne asbestos fibers which can be inhaled and cause disease. This type of asbestos exposure does not create high risk of asbestosis, but some asbestos experts believe that exposure to only a few fibers can cause mesothelioma.

Business owners may find it necessary to carry out asbestos sampling.
Business owners may find it necessary to carry out asbestos sampling.

Thousands of different types of asbestos products were manufactured in the past, from asbestos ceiling and roof treatments, asbestos tiles for walls and floors, cement products, insulation, to the distinctive asbestos popcorn ceiling that was popular in the 1970s. For this reason, it is best and safest to assume that any construction materials dating to the 1970s or earlier do contain some asbestos. When carrying out asbestos sampling, therefore, it is important to take precautions even if materials are not known to contain asbestos.

Asbestos is a hazardous material that was once popular in construction.
Asbestos is a hazardous material that was once popular in construction.

The health risks associated with asbestos exposure mean that safety precautions are a vital measure when carrying out asbestos sampling. First, it is important to understand that the asbestos fibers that are the most dangerous are too small to be seen by the naked eye. It is possible to release asbestos fibers during sampling without being aware of it. When taking samples the objective should be to cause as little disturbance to the materials as possible. No materials suspected to contain asbestos should be sanded or scraped. Samples should be sealed in a small plastic or glass container or sturdy plastic bag.

Anyone attempting to take samples for asbestos testing should also wear protective equipment, including gloves, a respirator with a HEPA filter, boots, and old clothing that can be disposed of after the sampling is completed. All the protective equipment used should be double-bagged in plastic after taking samples, and kept in a safe place until the sample results are received. If the materials test positive for asbestos, the equipment must be disposed of according to legal requirements. Often this means taking the items to a landfill that is equipped and licensed to receive asbestos waste.

Another option for the home or business owner who need asbestos sampling completed is to hire a licensed asbestos inspector to have the work done. This is a much safer option, and in some cases is necessary for legal reasons. In the United States, anyone hired to test materials for asbestos, or to handle any asbestos-containing materials, should be AHERA accredited or be a licensed asbestos handler. Other countries may require all asbestos sampling be carried out by a professional, or may have more relaxed sampling laws.

Asbestos sampling involves testing material for the presence of asbestos.
Asbestos sampling involves testing material for the presence of asbestos.

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Discussion Comments

candyquilt

I think the government should provide free asbestos bulk sampling for everyone, businesses and homeowners.

Asbestos is a serious risk. I think it should be part of the government's risk management strategy to identify buildings from 1980s and earlier and sample for asbestos.

Not everyone can be so knowledgeable about this. What if homes are damaged and asbestos is in the air without people realizing. Shouldn't the government take this responsibility rather than having businesses and homeowners pay private firms for sampling?

turquoise

It's not illegal in our state for homeowners to take their own samples from their houses to check for asbestos. But the process is so intricate, you have to have all that protective equipment and be extremely careful.

I think I'd rather not worry about all that and just have the professionals do it for me. Plus, you have to pay for the analysis of the material for asbestos contamination anyway. Might as well pay for the sample collection also.

ddljohn

Last year, they were fixing electrical wiring at my school and damaged a wall in an office. They had asbestos sampling done and it was positive. We couldn't enter that area in the school for at least 3-4 days. It was said to be safe after the wall was fixed and the room was ventilated for several days.

It was kind of scary but the people who dealt with it seemed very professional and they were not worried at all. I guess the building is really old and the experts were used to dealing with asbestos. Everything was back to normal at school several days later.

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