Sampling and laboratory testing is the only conclusive method of identifying the presence of asbestos. The result provided by the laboratory is a record of the asbestos or non-asbestos content of the sample piece provided for analysis. Visual only asbestos assessments cannot be relied upon, regardless of how experienced the person carrying out an asbestos assessment may be, the assessment will not be credible unless sample testing for asbestos of suspect material (if any) is conducted. Remember, any building built or renovated prior to 1990 has the possibility of containing ‘suspect material’.
It is the Society’s firm belief, and recommendation, that anything to do with testing and/or handling potential or known asbestos containing products is best left to fully trained and licenced professionals – handling deteriorating or damaged asbestos containing material (ACM) incorrectly, may have fatal consequences many years down the track. To find a licenced professional please contact the Demolition Contractors Association www.dcaq.com.au or the Asbestos Industry Association www.asbestosindustry.asn.au
Even after a property has been fully assessed and all suspect material tested, and any known asbestos or asbestos known materials or products have been removed by a licenced professional, all due care should still be taken as it is not always possible to find every source of asbestos! You should be particularly careful when working around current or ‘old’ wet areas where ACMs may be hidden behind false walls and ceilings; wall tiles and cladding, and under all descriptions of flooring.
Do not attempt under any circumstances to DIY testing of friable (loose fibrous or soft-bonded) material. Friable asbestos means any asbestos containing material that can be crumbled, pulverised, or reduced to powder by hand pressure – such as: loose or fibrous backing to floor coverings; insulation in ceilings; sprayed on, or spongy insulation common around pipework, boilers etc.; rope insulation material; or material that is already in a loose fibrous form. This may also include previously non-friable (hard-bonded) asbestos containing material that becomes broken or damaged by mechanical force – CAUTION – Working with friable asbestos containing material can be extremely dangerous, it is illegal for any person without an appropriate licence to handle, or work on any friable asbestos containing material.
Sampling involves collection of a sample of the suspect material that is not bigger than a ten cent piece. You should be aware, asbestos fibres are colourless and can be as small as 5 microns (invisible to the naked eye) in thickness – you must use a safe sampling process. In the sampling process the production of air borne fibres must be prevented.
Prior to taking the sample you should fit and wear an Asbestos Sampling Personal Protection Kit. This kit should consist of disposable asbestos rated:
- P2 facemask;
- asbestos rated full body coverall suit (if the arm and/or leg cuffs are loose fitting, wrap duct tape around them to form an airtight seal);
- latex gloves;
- boot covers. Note: keep them fitted during the collection and bagging activity and decontamination process.
You should also have;
- plastic drop sheets;
- press seal bags;
- long nosed pointed pliers;
- hammer and 1cm wide sharp chisel;
- duct tape;
- asbestos rated waste bags;
- PVC glue;
- marker pen.
Before taking a sample, ensure the area is clear of all other people; if inside shut windows and doors, turn off fans, AC units, heaters etc. If outside only sample on a still day; place a plastic drop sheet under the area to be sampled; be sure to damp the sampling area with water, using a spray bottle.
Clean the tools to be used with wet wipes prior to and between sampling to minimise cross contamination. Use the pliers to separate the sample, if no edge is visible or accessible use the hammer and chisel to nick a small sample off. When you have collected the sample(s), double bag each individual sample in press seal bags, ensuring to label them identifying the location you took the individual sample(s) from. Any exposed edges from where you took the sample should be sealed – with PVC glue.
Note: Do not leave the room (if you are inside) or move off the plastic drop sheet. You have not finished until you have completed the decontamination cleaning of your tools and the area around and beneath where you took the sample from by cleaning with wet-wipes and safely depositing all wipes and other waste material in the asbestos waste bag(s). Once finished, carefully damp yourself and the drop sheet down with water using the plastic spray bottle, place the drop sheet in the asbestos waste bag, then remove your Asbestos Sampling Personal Protection Kit, leaving the latex gloves and then the facemask to last and place all articles in asbestos waste bag(s). Close each bag by tying off individually with duct tape, seal the lot together, clearly label as containing asbestos, and then dispose of at your nearest authorised asbestos disposal facility.
Then take the sample(s) to your nearest authorised NATA testing facility for testing.
As a general rule, if you think the material is asbestos or contains asbestos – treat it as if it is asbestos until proven one way or the other through laboratory testing.
For further assistance please contact ADSS on 1800 776 412.
We would like to the Bernie Banton Foundation for allowing us to use their material.