Many old homes, schools, and buildings still have asbestos-containing materials. Do you have suspect materials in your building that you would like tested? Or are you concerned that a past abatement job was done poorly? Get answers to your questions by hiring Indoor Science to perform asbestos testing.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a collective term used to describe a class of naturally occurring minerals that have a “fibrous” structure. These minerals are Chrysotile, Amosite, Crocidolite, and fibrous varieties of Anthophyllite, Tremolite, and Actinolite. The most common type we find during our asbestos testing is Chrysotile. Asbestos was used in many commercial products and therefore can be found in many old buildings. Although most uses of asbestos have now been banned in the United States, there are still some allowable uses. At the peak of its demand, there were approximately 3,000 types of products containing asbestos. It was once known as the “miracle mineral” for its versatility, fire resistance, soundproofing, and strengthening properties. These properties are the reason that the minerals have been used in various civilizations throughout history. Asbestos mineral deposits have been discovered and mined worldwide.

What are the health effects of asbestos?

You may want to do asbestos testing because it has been known to lead to health effects such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. The primary route of asbestos exposure is inhalation. Asbestos is typically inhaled when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed and become airborne. Once airborne the fibers can make their way into the lungs. Asbestos-related diseases have a long latency period, which is the time between exposure and health effect. For asbestos, disease may occur 10 to 40 years after the initial exposure.

Once asbestos is deposited in the lungs it causes scarring and progressively moves into the lung lining. From there it can cause mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lung lining. While it can be caused by all types of asbestos, mesothelioma is usually attributed to exposure to amphibole asbestos varieties. Mesothelioma is a painful disease and currently, there is no cure. Because there are few other causes, mesothelioma is often presumed to be from asbestos exposure.

Lung cancer, which has many causes, may also arise from asbestos exposure. Smoking increases the risk of lung cancer drastically when combined with asbestos exposure. Besides mesothelioma and lung cancer, asbestosis is also a concern. Asbestosis refers to the pulmonary fibrosis of the lungs due to scarring from asbestos fibers. People with asbestosis have higher risks of later developing mesothelioma and lung cancer.

What buildings should have asbestos testing?

Asbestos can be present in residential, commercial, industrial, and all other building types built before the 1980s. Although asbestos has been used for millennia, it’s production and consumption picked up sharply in the 1940’s, peaked in the 50’s and 60’s, and trailed off in the 70’s 1.  Asbestos was used in a wide variety of common building materials such as insulation, floor tile, joint compound, adhesive, plaster, etc. Asbestos was used so widely primarily because of its durability when combined with other materials. For example, the lifespan of an asbestos roof shingle is much longer than roof shingles without it. Prior to renovation or repair activities that may disturb a building material, we highly recommend doing asbestos testing. Disturbing a building material that contains asbestos may lead to harmful exposure.

Asbestos Inspection vs. Asbestos Testing

Some clients are curious about a material in their home or building and want us to test that specific item. These tests must be performed by an Illinois licensed asbestos inspector. Depending on the property and the material in question, a few bulk samples may be collected for laboratory analysis.

Asbestos testing should not be confused with a comprehensive asbestos inspection. An inspection may entail following an industry standard such as ASTM E2356, “Standard Practice for Comprehensive Building Asbestos Surveys.” For example, if you have demolition project coming up, you’ll need to thoroughly inspect the property first. Give us a call at (312) 920-9393 and we’ll let you know what level of service is best suited for your project.

Bulk vs. Air vs. Dust Asbestos Testing

There are several ways to test for asbestos depending on the specific project.  If you are concerned about a specific material such as pipe insulation, we cut out a small piece.  This is called a “bulk sample”.  With laboratory analysis, we can determine if it contains asbestos and identify what type of asbestos is present and in what percent. Bulk samples involve cutting out materials. Although we may cover the area sampled with duct tape, spackle or fill material, you should restore the area as desired. When we collect samples, we take precautions to reduce fiber release by using industry best practices.

Air samples are often collected after asbestos abatement activities have been performed. This “clearance testing” ensures that the abatement is complete and that remnant asbestos is not a problem.  Air samples may be analyzed in the laboratory by PCM or TEM Methods. TEM provides more accurate results but the samples are more expensive and take longer to analyze.

Dust samples are collected using methods similar to TEM air sampling in order to determine the asbestos content of dust in a property.  This testing is commonly done when trying to evaluate past abatement projects or to evaluate construction-dust coming from a neighboring property. For example, we have found high levels of asbestos in dust following a DIY abatement project done over a year prior.

What sets us apart?

In the environmental asbestos industry, there are two distinct areas of expertise: consulting and abatement. At Indoor Science we only offer consulting services for inspections and testing. You may find that companies performing asbestos abatement will offer very cheap asbestos inspections to get their foot in the door. But beware… they make their money on abatement and may expand the scope of work beyond what is actually needed.

Why should you hire Indoor Science?  Listen to our project manager Jordan Thomas discuss asbestos on The Home Geeks Podcast.  I think you’ll find that we are passionate about what we do!

Keep in mind the consultant coming out isn’t just a technician.  He or she will have a science degree and an enthusiastic interest in helping you identify any asbestos problems in your property.

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