Environix provides residential, commercial and industrial clients with a wide variety of asbestos testing and inspecting services. Whether a simple remodel or a large scale demolition, we’ve got your asbestos testing needs covered.
Asbestos is the name given to a number of naturally occurring fibrous minerals with high tensile strength, the ability to be woven, and resistance to heat and most chemicals. Because of these properties, asbestos fibers have been used in a wide range of manufactured goods, including roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper and cement products, textiles, coatings, and friction products such as automobile clutch, brake and transmission parts. The Toxic Substances Control Act defines asbestos as the asbestiform varieties of: chrysotile (serpentine); crocidolite (riebeckite); amosite (cummingtonite/grunerite); anthophyllite; tremolite; and actinolite.
The two primary health issues are related to asbestos exposure: mesothelioma and asbestosis. Mesothelioma occurs when asbestos fibers lodge in the lining of the lungs, causing cancerous growths. Asbestosis is a serious, progressive, long-term non-cancer disease of the lungs. It is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers that irritate lung tissues and cause the tissues to scar. The scarring makes it hard for oxygen to get into the blood. Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath and a dry, crackling sound in the lungs while inhaling. There is no effective treatment for asbestosis.
Most instances of mesothelioma occur in industrial settings, where workers are exposed to large amounts of asbestos over a sustained period of time. However, the disease has been documented in short term exposure cases as well. The latency of the disease is quite long, with most cases requiring 30-40 years to develop.
Exposure to airborne friable asbestos may result in a potential health risk because persons breathing the air may breathe in asbestos fibers. Continued exposure can increase the amount of fibers that remain in the lung. Fibers embedded in lung tissue over time may cause serious lung diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma. Smoking increases the risk of developing illness from asbestos exposure. Disease symptoms may take several years to develop following exposure. If you are concerned about possible exposure, consult a physician who specializes in lung diseases (pulmonologist).
Two major health effects associated with asbestos exposure include:
Lung cancer causes the largest number of deaths related to asbestos exposure. People who work in the mining, milling, manufacturing of asbestos, and those who use asbestos and its products are more likely to develop lung cancer than the general population. The most common symptoms of lung cancer are coughing and a change in breathing. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent chest pains, hoarseness, and anemia.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin lining (membrane) of the lung, chest, abdomen, and heart and almost all cases are linked to exposure to asbestos. This disease may not show up until many years after asbestos exposure. This is why great efforts are being made to prevent school children from being exposed.
Asbestos Containing Materials
Asbestos fibers are incredibly strong and have properties that make them resistant to heat. Many products are in use today that contain asbestos. Most of these are materials used in heat and acoustic insulation, fire proofing, and roofing and flooring. In 1989, EPA identified the following asbestos product categories. Many of these materials may still be in use.
- Asbestos-cement corrugated sheet
- Asbestos-cement flat sheet
- Asbestos-cement pipe
- Asbestos-cement shingle
- Roof coatings
- Flooring felt
- Pipeline wrap
- Roofing felt
- Asbestos clothing
- Non-roof coatings
- Vinyl/asbestos floor tile
- Automatic transmission components
- Clutch facings
- Disc brake pads
- Drum brake linings
- Brake blocks
- Commercial and industrial asbestos friction products
- Sheet and beater-add gaskets (except specialty industrial)
- Commercial, corrugated and specialty paper
Dealing with asbestos can be quite tricky. Here are some common questions people run into:
What is asbestos?
Asbestos refers to six minerals (chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite). The vast majority of commercial and industrial applications have used chrysotile asbestos. The primary differentiating feature of asbestos is the shape of the fiber. Asbestos fibers are long, narrow, needle-like structures. This allows for easy respiration of the fibers, leading to potential lung damage.
When is asbestos testing required?
AHERA requires testing if any building materials other than wood, metal or glass will be disturbed. Certain building materials are presumed to contain asbestos until an inspection is conducted. These materials are surfacing materials (trowel or spray applied surface treatments), thermal system insulation (on pipes, tanks and boilers), and flooring materials.
Who can perform asbestos testing?
Only an AHERA certified building inspector may perform asbestos testing. *Homeowners are allowed to perform asbestos testing on their own home. However, this data cannot be used by a contractor (unless it is a positive result). Homeowner testing can only be used it the homeowner is performing all of the abatement themselves. If anyone is hired to remove a potentially asbestos containing material, an AHERA certified inspector must perform the testing.
Though it may seem cost effective to collect asbestos samples yourself, in the long run it often is much more expensive. Our AHERA certified inspectors can utilize sampling and processing techniques (specifically ‘Point Counting”) that can drop a result below 1%. This can dramatically effect the cost of a remodeling project, nearly always at a level that far exceeds the cost of professional asbestos sampling.
When is an AHERA Asbestos Building Inspector required to perform the testing?
Asbestos Surveys for renovations and demolitions must be performed by an AHERA Building Inspector as defined under 40 CFR 763 except for surveys associated with the renovation of an owner-occupied, single-family residence. For the renovation of such residences, homeowners may perform their own asbestos surveys. However, if an owner-occupied single-family residence is to be demolished, an AHERA Building Inspector must be employed for the asbestos survey.
I’m repainting my popcorn ceiling, do I need to test for asbestos?
No. Repainting does not typically disturb asbestos containing material. However, if the popcorn is degraded and will be disturbed by prepping, painting, etc., then testing is required.
We’re replacing our vinyl floor – do I need to test for asbestos?
Yes. Vinyl floor and any underlying adhesives are considered a potentially asbestos containing material.
Do I need to test the flooring if I’m simply installing carpet on top of the vinyl?
No. Installing carpet on top of flooring is not considered a disturbance.
What about industrial asbestos production in Seattle?
To our knowledge, asbestos mining has not occurred within the Seattle region. However, vermiculite, an insulation material containing asbestos, was produced or handled in numerous facilities throughout the Seattle area. The EPA lists all of these facilities as closed as of 2000.
What are the primary applications of asbestos?
Asbestos has been used commercially for thousands of years. The fiber was utilized in a variety of ways including newspapers, lamp wicks and even table cloths. However, full-scale production of asbestos did not begin until the early 19th century. During this era, asbestos fibers found their way into a variety of products including brake pads, insulation, ceiling tiles, etc. Before the deleterious health affects were understood, asbestos was widely praised for its flame resistance and durability. Production of asbestos peaked worldwide in 1977 at just under 5 million metric tons. Since then, growing health concerns have led to an overall decline down to 2.3 million metric tons in 2005.