The first step in any situation where you fear you may have asbestos in your home or business is to have a sample tested by a professional lab.
There’s no way to tell from simply looking at any material if it contains asbestos or not, even if it was manufactured prior to 1989 when the EPA officially banned the use of asbestos.
Anyone who claims that they can tell from a visual test if you have asbestos siding or not is completely and utterly wrong; only a laboratory test will confirm the presence of asbestos or not and whether it was added to your siding during manufacturing.
Collecting a sample of material for testing is relatively simple; testing the air quality of your home for asbestos fibers is much more difficult and requires specialized equipment.
Procedure to Collect a Material Sample
As long as you take a few simple precautions, it’s completely safe for you to collect a sample for testing and does not require a professional to come into your home.
The EPA has published step-by-step guidelines for the process which are included below.
The process is slightly different depending on the type of material you’re collecting but the basic safety steps are the same and apply to siding, popcorn ceilings, insulation, flooring, and other common materials.
Labs charge a separate fee for each different type of sample you send, so keep that in mind when deciding what to collect to send in for testing.
Step-by-Step Check List for Collections Asbestos Testing Samples
- Shut off any heating or cooling units and close all doors and windows that might create a draft.
- Wet the material you will be sampling with a mister or spray bottle. This prevents any stray fibers from becoming airborne.
- Use a utility knife or similar tool to cut a sample of the material. Be sure to cut a piece from the entire depth of the material.
- If working with siding, try to find a piece at least one square inch that has already cracked or Â chipped or broken off (often found around windows, doors, and air conditioning units).
- If the material is friable — and can be crushed to dust with just hand pressure — such as vermiculite insulation, collect about a teaspoon amount of material.
- If it is non-friable, cut out a sample of at least one square inch.
- If you’re sample popcorn ceiling texture, cut all the way through past the sheetrock and try to take a sample from three different areas.
- Place the material in a high-quality Ziploc bag. Be sure it is completely sealed and wipe it thoroughly with a damp rag or paper towel.
- Label the bag. Something as simple as Sample #1 is fine.
- That’s it, you’re done!
Finding an Asbestos Testing Lab
Companies that offer testing services are located throughout the US and in many states, so you may have a lab located in the town you live in; if not, it’s easy to find a lab through a web search or in your local Yellow Pages.
Most charge around $30 per sample and will have results for you within 24 hours of receiving your sample and payment — some even return the results to you on the same day you receive them.