Airborne Asbestos Testing: How It Works and What It Reveals

2 June 2015
 Categories: , Blog


The detection of asbestos can be difficult because it isn't always obvious. When asbestos is present in a building, it is typically going to become airborne at some point. It may already fill the air with particles invisible to the naked eye. The test for airborne asbestos is, therefore, the most common way to detect and measure asbestos levels within a building. Here is how the test for airborne asbestos is performed and what type of results it yields.

The Testing Equipment

A highly sophisticated microscope is used to evaluate the amount of asbestos fibers present in air samples from the area being tested. This process, known as phase contrast microscopy, is typically done at the site where the asbestos is suspected. The microscope transforms the miniscule, invisible changes in the air that represent asbestos presence, known as phase shifts, into a visible brightness change. This brightness variation alerts the tester to the presence of asbestos.

Why Phase Contrast Microscopy Is Done in Asbestos Testing

There are several different reasons that phase contrast microscopy may be performed at a site. These may include

  • Monitoring conditions where employees work for health reasons
  • Checking an area where construction is planned to make sure it's safe to proceed
  • Testing for asbestos levels prior to a planned abatement project

The Advantages of Airborne Asbestos Testing via Phase Contrast Microscopy

There are a couple of significant advantages to doing airborne asbestos testing with phase contrast microscopy. Perhaps the most important of these is the speed. The turnaround time for this type of asbestos testing is typically very quick, taking as little as a few days to yield results. These results will not only indicate whether asbestos is present, but will give you a very accurate idea of exactly how much asbestos is in the air.

When you are dealing with potential asbestos in the environment, addressing the problem as soon as possible is essential. This is especially true if there are people working or living near the suspected asbestos, so this fast result is very helpful.

Another big advantage to using phase contrast microscopy for airborne asbestos testing is that it is fairly inexpensive, especially when compared with physical analysis of asbestos materials. If you are dealing with an environment where asbestos is suspected but you can't get remediation immediately, periodic future testing will be necessary. By having a cost-effective testing method, you can get the air tested regularly until you can afford to get the necessary asbestos remediation.

If you suspect asbestos in an environment where you work or live, consider calling an asbestos testing company like Hazmat Solutions Asbestos for help. If there is dangerous asbestos in the area, they can quickly find it and help you remove it promptly!


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