Asbestos is a mineral mined from the ground. All forms of asbestos are known human carcinogens. They cause a variety of malignant cancers, from mesothelioma to lung, ovarian, and gastrointestinal cancers. Even small amounts of asbestos are unsafe. Many people have died from both primary and secondary exposure to asbestos.
Banned Years Ago?
Some people say asbestos was banned in the ’70s or ’80s, so you don’t need to worry about buildings constructed after that year. This is a dangerous myth. In reality, the most recent ban in 1989 was partial. Moreover, most of the regulation was overturned by the courts just a few years later. Today, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, asbestos can still be used in, for example:
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- Cement sheets
See the EPA website for a complete list.
Usage of Asbestos Today
Yet, asbestos is still found in many common materials and products. Its utility in industry has enabled it to thrive, despite the serious health risks associated with its usage. Many people aren’t waiting on the government to act. They are taking matters into their own hands and actively looking for ways to eradicate extant asbestos.
Building materials are a particular area of concern. Some 35 million homes in the U.S. reportedly contain asbestos, says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. However, many homeowners aren’t sure if their property is contaminated. Houses built in the 50s and 60s have higher rates of contamination, but any home is potentially at risk.
To determine the extent of infiltration in their household, homeowners need to identify potential hotspots, collect samples, and have them chemically tested for the toxic mineral fibers. Professional testing services are available for this purpose. More recently, asbestos testing kits have also become commercially available as a DIY alternative for identification.
Which is the best option – asbestos testing kits or professional testing services? It depends on your priorities. Read on to learn about the major advantages and disadvantages of using asbestos testing kits versus calling in the experts.
Why Use an Asbestos Testing Kit? The Advantages
Asbestos is difficult to detect. It may lurk in insulation, floor tile, drywall, paint, cement, and more. Unless there is a label indicating it is present, there is no easy way to visually identify asbestos, so running a chemical test is necessary for identification. An asbestos testing kit will get you started. A home testing kit can help building managers decide whether they have an asbestos problem that needs to be addressed by a professional.
The first and most obvious benefit of DIY kits are the saving on labor costs. Asbestos test kits run from about $30 to $60, though each kit is different. A DIY kit is often less expensive than the hourly rates of a specialized contractor. You don’t have to be a professional contractor or asbestos expert to collect samples, and home test kits are readily available online.
Moreover, it may be relatively difficult to locate a qualified asbestos contractor. Many states require additional certification of contractors before they can offer services related to asbestos abatement. If you are in a rural or otherwise poorly staffed area, it may be more practical to handle identification yourself.
Some people believe the chance of exposure is minimal with the proper protections, reasoning that asbestos is only dangerous when airborne. Simple dust respirators, goggles, and work gloves can be purchased at Home Depot.
Disadvantages of DIY Asbestos Testing Kits
Collecting asbestos samples is a health hazard worth taking seriously. Asbestos fibers are quick to spread. They are released into the environment when disturbed and easily carried elsewhere on clothing, skin and hair. The most common method of contamination is simply by breathing asbestos particles in. They are microscopic, so you won’t be able to observe any exposures. Professionals know how to guard against these risks.
A professional is also more likely to know where to look for asbestos. With comprehensive knowledge of the products, brands and types of environments likely to harbor the stuff, hiring a professional to collect samples gives you a better chance of discovering all the asbestos that is present. That’s a major drawback to using a kit; it presumes you know something about the contemporary use of asbestos in construction materials.
If you do discover asbestos in your home, hiring a professional may afford you easy access to removal services. Removal services are not a project for even the ambitious do-it-yourselfer. Inappropriate handling of materials that contain asbestos can lead to criminal charges and fines at the federal and state levels. In many states, any removal or sealing of asbestos requires a special contractor’s license.
Professional testing services often have quicker turnaround on laboratory results compared to home kits. Processing of home kits is done by mail and typically takes 2 to 3 weeks to complete and report.