Testing Asbestos

Testing asbestos must be performed by a NATA accredited laboratory. This lab should adopt the Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) for bulk samples and the Phase Contrast Microscope (PCM) for air sampling. Both methods are considered favourable in the Australian legislation. The PCM method is cheaper than other options and is also the simplest.

Why Test Asbestos

Testing is the safest and most reliable solution to determine the type and presence of asbestos. You can always assume that a particular material contains asbestos, but this assumption can prove to be costly if that is not the case. Some asbestos assessors and removalists base their prices on square meters and height, so you will eventually pay more.

All workplaces constructed prior to 2004 must have an asbestos register and an asbestos management plan. Testing is performed to ensure that the information about the location and type of asbestos is accurate, thus making is easier to implement the appropriate control measures in certain areas. The risk assessment conducted by an asbestos assessor is also affected by the presence of ACMs.

How is Testing Performed?

There are two types of asbestos testing:

  1. Bulk sample testing
  2. Air Sample testing

Air sample testing is best to determine any risks associated with occupational exposure. It is also indicated when asbestos is removed from a location. The bulk sample testing on the other hand is used to determine the presence of ACMs, but does not reveal the amount of airborne fibres. Experts will assess just how badly the ACM is deteriorated and depending on the area will use the results from airborne asbestos sampling to make a final conclusion about the control or removal measures that should be used.

Are Test Results Accurate?

The PCM method has been criticised for overestimating asbestos fibre concentration. In addition to this, it does not accurately distinguish asbestos fibres from non-asbestos fibres.  If there is a lot of dust on the asbestos sampling filters, then this will affect the results. NATA accredited laboratories are encouraged to put “no asbestos detected” in such cases instead of “nil.”

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