Decoding Asbestos Reports: Understanding Results and Next Steps

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Mar 5, 2024

Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral that was heavily used in construction materials some decades ago. Builders were drawn to its low thermal conductivity, high chemical and mechanical resistance, and cost-effectiveness. 

Despite these traits, however, asbestos was found to be highly hazardous to health and the environment. Moves to ban asbestos use were initiated in different countries worldwide, with varying timelines but mostly favorable results. 

If you have an older commercial or home building, there’s a chance that it has asbestos-containing materials (ACM). For instance, a 2021 survey in the US showed that the average age of American homes is 20 to 31 years, while only 10% of properties are built later than 2000. 

It’s best to contact reputable asbestos testing firms for your peace of mind. Similarly, you’re likely eager to know what the results mean if you’ve recently had an asbestos inspection. Let’s explore the basics to help you process the information more effectively. 

Grasping how reports are made  

Inspectors will sample different materials onsite and submit them to laboratories for appropriate analysis. A thorough inspection can help determine whether your building and area contain any of the six types of asbestos—95% of which are likely chrysotile–so you can handle and manage them properly.

Standards and regulations about asbestos inspection and management slightly differ from state to state. Globally, however, these elements must be included in every asbestos testing procedure:   

  • Site and survey details 
  • Testing methodologies used
  • Site plans showing where samples were found
  • Main findings (i.e., risk assessment score)
  • Asbestos registers, which list the identified and suspected asbestos compounds within the site
  • Further actions required
  • Details of the inspecting facility (i.e., accreditation number) 

The results of an asbestos survey help determine how to move forward. Expect to find recommendations in the concluding section of the report. For instance, you might be asked to encapsulate, enclose, or hire an expert asbestos removal firm to remove ACM in priority or high-risk zones.   

It’s equally crucial to comprehend the scope and reliability of an asbestos survey to understand its current and potential implications. You can craft prudent and effective asbestos management plans by studying the following angles:  

1. Confirm the reliability of the testing methods used

Besides hiring accredited testing firms, knowing the type of collection and sample testing methodologies can help you understand the reliability of the findings. For example, some inspectors use polarized light microscopy or PLM, which can identify asbestos fibers using a special type of microscope. Depending on pre-treatment procedures and an analyst’s experience,  additional testing, like transmission electron microscopy might be needed for more definitive results.  

2. Understand the implications of asbestos-containing materials

The information in the ‘findings’ section is one of the most important sections of the report. It should contain clear information on where the asbestos was found and which materials tested positive. For instance, floor tiles, pipe insulations, ceiling fixtures, roofing felts, and fire-proofing materials often contain asbestos.   

Pinpointing the exact locations and asbestos-containing materials let you gain critical insights for safely managing asbestos discoveries. The report can form the basis to selective abatement or precautionary activities before renovating or demolishing your property.   

3. Analyze the potential for exposure

Asbestos poses health and environmental risks when its fibers separate, become airborne and inhaled. So, beyond just presence, asbestos reports must classify materials by their condition and potential to release fibers once disturbed. 

Besides the Material Assessment Score, the findings will also show the site’s Priority Assessment Score—which looks at the occupants’ activities, likelihood of disturbance, potential for asbestos exposure, and maintenance activities.  

Knowing which ACMs are severely damaged, actively deteriorating, or have high exposure risks guides how they must be sealed, encapsulated, enclosed, or removed completely. The ratings should determine which items must remain untouched or continuously monitored after proper handling or containment. Understand these contexts to know how to prioritize your remediation efforts.     

4. Choose the recommended abatement or mitigation

Addressing asbestos requires proper knowledge, specialized training, certifications, equipment, and safe disposal techniques. Depending on the type of remediation method recommended in the report, you must ensure your hired asbestos removal specialists are qualified and accredited. 

Verify these by requesting their licenses, training records, and regulator notifications. Don’t take your chances by hiring cheap yet non-compliant and inexperienced companies. Any minor mistake can dramatically increase the chances of asbestos exposure, so vet the company thoroughly.    

5. Monitor air levels 

If the asbestos testing report calls for major remediation with air impacts, be prepared to hire third-party air monitoring firms on top of your asbestos removal contractor. Air sampling and monitoring are critical before, during, and after substantial asbestos removal projects. The procedure records fiber levels to ensure contamination is controlled and confirm the success of abatement once completed. 

Concluding thoughts 

Asbestos survey results provide essential details that can help you with appropriate responses. Use this decoding checklist to guarantee you have reliable data to guide you in planning appropriate ways to manage or dispose of asbestos in your property.  

When examining the report, understand the affected materials and their risk levels. Before any remediation, assess qualified asbestos removal companies and employ air testing whenever major disturbances are required. 

With thoughtful analysis and commitment to safety, you can handle asbestos properly while protecting your family, workers, tenants, and visitors’ well-being for years.

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