What is Asbestos Testing?

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  • Written By: K T Solis
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 12 August 2019
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Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was once used in construction, insulation, clothing, paint, home appliances, and other common products. Continuous exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer. It may take several years of exposure to asbestos before a person develops serious health problems. Asbestos testing is performed by accredited asbestos labs to determine if asbestos is located within a building.

Asbestos can be found in homes, offices, and schools. When a building contaminated with asbestos is remodeled or painted, the asbestos is disturbed. As a result, microscopic asbestos particles enter the air. When people breathe in these fibers, they are at a higher risk of developing lung cancer. Asbestos testing can determine whether this dangerous mineral is lurking within a structure's walls.

When an accredited lab conducts asbestos testing, the lab takes samples of a surface that is suspected of containing asbestos. This can involve pressing a piece of tape to the surface to take the sample. An asbestos testing lab primarily uses three forms of testing: transmission electron microscopy (TEM), polarized light microscopy (PLM), and phase contrast microscopy (PCM).

TEM asbestos testing employs magnification and chemical and mineral tools to determine the difference between asbestos and non-asbestos materials. It is the most expensive form of testing. PLM uses polarized light to examine building fibers, differentiating between asbestos and non-asbestos.


This test can analyze a large amount of fibers at a lower cost than the TEM test. The PCM test uses magnification but cannot distinguish between asbestos and non-cancerous building materials. It is also the least expensive test to conduct.

If asbestos testing reveals that a building is contaminated with asbestos, it's imperative that the asbestos is immediately removed from the structure. A qualified asbestos-removing company should be hired. Contractors who are experts at removing asbestos know how to safely and legally remove this toxic material from buildings.

Prolonged exposure to asbestos can lead to serious lung diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. These diseases are caused by the asbestos fibers that lodge in the lungs as time passes. Symptoms of these serious respiratory conditions include difficulty breathing, decreased appetite, pains in the chest, persistent cough, and wheezing.

Asbestos is a silent killer that lurks in old buildings. It may inhabit floor tile, textured paint, heating and plumbing ducts, or appliances within the home. To determine if asbestos is present within a building, asbestos testing must be conducted by an accredited asbestos-testing lab. These experts can also recommend reputable contractors who can eliminate the material from the structure.


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Post 3

I know a lot of people who worked in a local textile mill. A good number of the people working there were getting sick with breathing problems, and then some got cancer.

After a while, some EPA workers did asbestos testing. That's when we learned that all the illness was because of asbestos in the mill. Several people died, and the company had to pay out money to the people who became ill.

Post 2

@Feryll - Your worries about the dangers of living with asbestos are warranted. As this article says, asbestos has the potential to cause serious health problems including lung cancer. This being said, you should also know that as long as you are not breathing asbestos fibers that are floating about in the air you should be okay.

With floor tiles like you mentioned, unless the tiles are broken and you are breathing the dust particles you shouldn't be in any great danger from the asbestos. You need to get someone to do asbestos testing for you before you attempt to remove the tiles though.

If there is asbestos present then you will need to hire professionals to remove the tiles. If there is no asbestos then you can do the work yourself as long as you feel comfortable with the test results.

Post 1

I have been doing a lot of work on the old house we recently bought. I have had some of the paint tested and I know we have some rooms that have at one time been painted with paint containing lead. For this reason, I am always careful to wear a mask when I am removing chipping and flaking paint.

Now, I am about to remove some of the tile from one of the floors and I am concerned that the tile will have some asbestos because of the age of the flooring. I am wondering just how dangerous removing the tile is, and how much danger have we put ourselves in by living here the last few months.

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