To test for asbestos, people typically take a small sample of the material that they think contains this substance. The sample is sent to a laboratory, which uses highly sensitive equipment to detect asbestos fibers. Because asbestos can be very dangerous, many safety organizations recommend that people turn to professionals to extract samples for testing. In a situation where testing is required, a professional is also familiar with the paperwork and procedures necessary to make the test legal.
Asbestos is a type of fibrous mineral that happens to be very fire resistant. It was widely used in construction until the late 1980s, when it began to be recognized as a health risk. In an inert form, asbestos is not harmful, but when a product which contains asbestos is disturbed, it can release small fibers that are extremely dangerous to inhale. Asbestos can be found in insulation, flooring, pipe lining, and other products with increased with resistance. A test can reveal very low levels of asbestos fibers that could still be dangerous.
People should always test for asbestos when they are considering the purchase of an older home or other structure. In some regions, such testing is mandatory for the sellers, and testing records are open to people who are interested. Asbestos testing should also be carried out before remodeling an older building, or if things like floor tiles and insulation are obviously exposed and damaged.
A quick — though not always accurate — test for asbestos is to ask a professional who is familiar with the substance to visit the site. Plumbers and electricians often regularly interact with asbestos, and they can identify substances that may contain it. The only way to truly test for it is to send in a sample to a laboratory, however. Some companies sell asbestos test kits for consumers to collect their own samples, but people who choose to do this need to be extremely careful and wear face protection while gathering the sample.
If an asbestos test confirms the presence of asbestos, the building's owner may be required to use specially trained contractors to remove the material. These contractors are familiar with the procedures for handling asbestos, and they can ensure that it is safely and legally disposed of once they have removed it. Although this can be expensive, handling asbestos properly is both environmentally responsible and legally required. In addition, it can protect the health of anyone who might use the structure in question.