Asbestos was a widely used building material in Australia for decades. However, this was before it was known that it could lead to major lung conditions, such as cancer, asbestosis, pleural thickening and mesothelioma. If you think that you have discovered asbestos in your home or commercial premises, then it is important to leave it in situ. Asbestos that is broken away from a structure often releases fine strands of the material which you can breathe in. However, you should not ignore it either. Given that later forms of the material are harmless, some asbestos testing will be needed to tell you what you are dealing with. What is involved?
Obtaining a Sample
To begin with, you cannot tell whether a material contains asbestos or not by the naked eye. You will, therefore, require a professional in asbestos testing to make an assessment for you. Even if you have a microscope with which you can view the material close up, only properly qualified personnel will be able to tell whether a sample contains asbestos and which type it is. When you have a laboratory assessment carried out, get the assessors to take their own sample rather than remove it yourself. This should be taken under controlled conditions so that any asbestos fibres that are released are properly disposed of rather than being able to get into the local environment. Again, professional training is required for this.
When the sample of your building material is sent to the lab, it will undergo one or more procedures to determine its exact makeup. Asbestos testing is often performed with a technique known as polarised light microscopy. In some cases, dispersion staining techniques are used. Either way, the laboratory assessment will lead to a report being put together which will outline the next steps you need take to deal with your asbestos safely. Of course, it could also determine that the material contains no asbestos which means you'll be able to proceed however you see fit.
If your asbestos testing comes back positive, then a removal plan will need to be drawn up. Again, only trained personnel should carry out such work. The correct personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn by anyone removing asbestos. Usually, plastic sheeting is put up where operatives are working. This will be sealed to the floor and ceiling with tape to prevent any asbestos at all from escaping. Once the material is removed, it should be disposed of according to the government's regulations and not taken to a landfill facility.