ALS has the expertise in asbestos analysis to help you make the right decisions when it comes to protecting the wellbeing of your employees and clients.
Our wide range of prep methods, instrumentation, and expertise, allow us to customize analyses such as fiber and particle characterization and identification to individual client needs.
Air Testing Capabilities
At ALS, we use Phase Contrast Microscopy (PCM) with NIOSH 7400 to determine the concentration of airborne fibers >5µm long and >0.25µm in diameter having a length to width aspect ratio >3:1. This method is performed for personal samples and occupational exposures to meet OSHA requirements. The method does not distinguish between asbestos and non-asbestos fibers. Results are reported in fibers/mL (fibers/cc) based on the sample volume collected.
Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) using NIOSH 7402 is the TEM complement to PCM NIOSH 7400 to determine the concentration of airborne fibers for personal samples. This method will determine the concentration of each asbestos fiber species and the total non-asbestos fiber concentration for fibers >5µm long and >0.25µm in diameter having a length to width aspect ratio >3:1 in a minimum of 400 liters of air sampled. Results are reported as fiber counts, fibers per mm2 of filter area, and fibers per mL.
The TEM AHERA method is generally used for area and clearance samples to determine the type and amount of asbestos fibers >0.5µm long and having a length to width aspect ratio >5:1 present in a minimum volume of 1200 liters of air. Structures (fiber, bundle, cluster, matrix) are counted rather than individual fibers. This method lists the concentration of asbestos <5µm long, >5µm long and total asbestos concentration. Non-asbestos fibers are noted but not counted.
Bulk Testing Capabilities
Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) uses method EPA/600/R-93/116 to determine the presence and quantity of asbestos in bulk building materials and soil. Fibers are examined for optical properties including morphology, color/pleochroism, birefringence, sign of elongation, and extinction angle to determine the type of asbestos present. Visual estimates of concentration are made on an area basis. Results are reported in percentage of asbestos present (None Detected, <1%, >1<3, >3<5, >5<10, >10<20, etc.). Non-asbestos fiber percentages are given when applicable.
PLM Point Counts by EPA/600/R-93/116 are used to better characterize friable bulk materials with close to 1% asbestos. The analyst examines 400 random particles on multiple slide mounts and records the type at each point. Asbestos percentage is determined by dividing asbestos particles detected by total particles examined. TEM by EPA/600/R-93/116 works well for samples such as floor tiles that contain fibers that may be too small to be detected by PLM. It also helps to identify coated fibers or other problematic materials. Results are given as area percent asbestos.
Preparation by gravimetric reduction (via ashing, acid reduction, or both) produces a more accurate result when the asbestos percent is close to 1%. Also, materials with organic binder, such as roofing tar or flexible vinyl tiles must be prepped gravimetrically in order to perform PLM or TEM bulk analysis.
Dust Testing Capabilities
TEM method ASTM D5755-09 is used to analyze microvac samples for the presence of asbestos >0.5µm long over a 100cm2 area of settled dust collected. Concentrations of each asbestos species and total asbestos are given in structures per cm2 of sampling area.
TEM method ASTM D6480-05 is used to analyze ghost wipe samples for the presence of asbestos >0.5µm long over a 100cm2 area of settled dust collected. Concentrations of each asbestos species and total asbestos are given in structures per cm2 of sampling area.
Drinking Water Testing Capabilities
EPA methods 100.1 and 100.2 are used to analyze drinking water samples for asbestos. Using our TEM capabilities, fibers >10µm are counted and results are given in Millions of Fibers per Liter (MFL) to meet SDWA specificiations.
Asbestos is a group of fibrous, naturally occurring, minerals. Asbestos has been mined and used for many purposes due to some valuable characteristics:
- high tensile strength
- very good thermal and electrical insulation properties
- resistance to chemicals
- long fibers - can be woven into fabric or mats
- large specific surface giving high absorptive capacity
Asbestos in homes generally occurs as the result of damaged, degraded or disturbed bulk building materials such as floor or ceiling tiles, insulation, caulking, drywall skim coats, etc. If these materials contain asbestos fibers, they may be released into the atmosphere posing a potential inhalation risk to those inside. Asbestos fibers are microscopic; too small to be seen by the naked eye. Therefore, the only way to determine if there are possible asbestos containing materials (PACM) in your home is to sample any suspected material and have it analyzed by a laboratory certified in asbestos analysis of bulk building materials.
The following procedure is recommended for sampling PACM for asbestos:
- Wear a single use mask approved by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and disposable gloves and protective clothing.
- Turn off ventilation systems in the room and seal off the area to minimize the spread of any released fibres. Place a plastic sheet on the floor below the area where the sample is to be taken.
- Spray the material to be sampled with a fine mist of water to prevent any loose fibers from becoming airborne.
- A 3X3inch piece of material or 1 Tbsp of loose material is sufficient for analysis.
- Be sure to penetrate any paint or protective coatings and sample all layers of the material.
- Place each individual sample in its own “zip-lock” type sealable plastic bag to contain the sample and mark it with a unique sample identifier or description (e.g. “bathroom tile”).
- After sampling, cover the exposed region with adhesive aluminium foil tape.
- Clean the sampling area using a damp cloth, not a vacuum cleaner, and seal the asbestos waste, gloves, mask and cloth in a plastic bag for disposal. Check with your local municipality on how to dispose of possible asbestos-containing waste. Wash clothing separately and shower after completing the work.
- Chains of custody are available on the ALS website.
- Ship or deliver the samples and chain of custody to your nearest ALS laboratory for analysis.
Tiny, thin asbestos fibers may be inhaled and can become stuck in the lung tissue. The fibers do not dissolve, but keep irritating and over time altering the tissue. Depending on how severe these alterations become, various diseases can develop, e.g.:
- pleural plaques (scarring of the membranes lining the lung and chest)
- asbestosis (the amount of connective tissue in the lungs increase, causing breathing abnormalities)
- mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer in the membranes lining the chest and the abdominal cavity)
There is currently no ban on the use of asbestos in products in the US. However, it is agreed that asbestos presents a threat to human health when inhaled. Therefore, asbestos is a regulated air pollutant and many applications have been banned by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
No, there is no holding time for asbestos samples.
The report from the laboratory for PACM provides a general physical description of the bulk building material submitted for analysis with regard to homogeneity, color, texture, etc. ALS reports asbestos as a percentage by type and total asbestos present.
Possible outcomes for the analysis of PACM for asbestos include results as ND (None Detected), Trace (<1%), and >1% (estimated in percentage ranges). A sample reported as ND is considered non-asbestos and no action is required. A sample reported as Trace indicates that asbestos was detected, but some amount less than 1% of the total composition of the material submitted. Samples reported as containing asbestos at some level >1% are considered asbestos containing materials (ACM). Since asbestos is only considered hazardous when inhaled, as long as the ACM is undamaged and undisturbed, and there is no danger of fibers becoming airborne, then no immediate action is necessary. However, if the ACM is damaged or disturbed and there is potential for fiber release into the air, then a professional asbestos removal company should be contacted immediately. Further testing of the material, the air, and/or settled dust may be necessary.
Asbestos analysis of bulk building materials cost is dependent on the sample type since the procedures necessary to prepare the sample for analysis differ from sample to sample. Some compact materials can be ground by mortar and pestle prior to analysis, other flexible or resinous materials must be ashed in a muffle furnace to remove organic binders, some cementitious materials may require acid digestion to remove mineral carbonates, and still others may require both ashing and acid digestion before they can be analyzed. A single PACM sample typically costs less than $ 30 to test for asbestos. However, more advanced preparation and analytical methods will incur higher costs. Analysis of indoor air samples, settled dust samples, vermiculite insulation samples, soil samples and water samples for asbestos require preparation and analysis according to the methods developed for those individual sample types and can cost anywhere from $100-$200 per sample.
Standard reporting time for asbestos in PACM samples is 5 working days. More complex asbestos testing may require up to 10 working days to complete. Rush requests can be accommodated for a 100% surcharge and analysis are completed ASAP.
Yes, the ALS is accredited for asbestos analysis by several accrediting bodies for a variety of asbestos analyses. Please contact the ALS QA/QC Manager for a complete list of all our certifications.
|Analyses and Methods||Method|
|Airborne Fibers by PCM||NIOSH 7400|
|Particle Characterization by PCM||Customized to client's needs|
|Airborne Fibers by PCM - mines and quarries||ASTM D7200|
|Vitreous Fibers by PCM||NIOSH N77-152|
|Asbestos by PLM||EPA/600/R-93/116|
|Asbestos by PLM in soil||EPA/600/R-93/116 (modified) ENV004|
|Asbestos Point Count by PLM||EPA/600/R-93/116|
|Asbestos in Vermiculite by PLM||EPA/600/R-04/004|
|Friable Material by PLM||ELAP 198.1|
|Nonfriable Organic Binder by PLM||ELAP 198.6|
|Particle Characterization by PLM||Customized to client's needs|
|Refractory Cermaic Fibers by PLM||EPA 600/R-93/116|
|Asbestos in Settled Dust via Ghost Wipe by TEM||ASTM D 6480-05|
|Asbestos in Settled Dust via MicroVac by TEM||ASTM D 5755-09|
|Airborne Asbestos (>0.5 µm) by TEM||EPA AHERA|
|Airborne Asbestos (>5 µm) by TEM||NIOSH 7402|
|Asbestos in Friable Bulk by TEM||EPA/600/R-93/116|
|Asbestos in Nonfriable Bulk by TEM||ELAP 198.4 B|
|Asbestos in Soil by TEM||EPA/600/R-93/116 (modified)|
|Asbestos in Vermiculite by TEM||EPA/600/R-04/004|
|Asbestos in Water by TEM||EPA 100.1 and 100.2|
|Particle Characterization by TEM||Customized to client's needs|