Typically, asbestos-tainted products won’t pose a health hazard to anyone if they are left undisturbed and intact. However, you must be on alert if you plan on making any major home renovations, or if parts of your building, such as the insulation or drywall, are falling apart.
If you’re unsure about whether something contains asbestos, you should assume that it does. Whatever you do, though, don’t try to remove it yourself. Instead, try to inspect it visually. If it looks like it’s intact, isolate it by limiting access to the surrounding area for relatives and pets. If the material looks more than slightly damaged, or you’re planning home projects that may disturb it, consult an asbestos inspector. These professionals are specially trained to handle asbestos. They can also collect material samples to send to a laboratory.
What do asbestos laboratories do?
There are two types of tests that asbestos laboratories can conduct in order to measure asbestos fibers. Polarized light microscopy tests can analyze asbestos in bulk solid materials, while transmission electron microscopy detects asbestos fibers in air samples.
You shouldn’t just hire any lab that can perform these tests, though. For safety’s sake, make sure that asbestos laboratories meet the testing standards of the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program, or NVLAP, which is an initiative of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This agency works with a contractor to send asbestos laboratories testing samples that will help determine whether they’re proficient in measuring asbestos.
Federal laws require that all schools be evaluated for asbestos only by asbestos laboratories that are accredited by the NVLAP. No such requirements exist for private homes or buildings that are not schools. However, NVLAP-accredited asbestos laboratories are still the best option in these cases.
Experts estimate that diseases related to asbestos exposure claim the lives of more than 9,900 individuals in the U.S. every year. That figure won’t peak for another 10 years – a consequence of the fact that these illnesses tend to not present any signs until decades have passed. This underscores not only the importance of avoiding asbestos, but also of eliminating its use and production in every country.