Most people know asbestos is a dangerous material found in some older buildings, but do you actually know what asbestos is or how asbestos exposure can threaten your health? Learn more about this material, why it’s dangerous, and what asbestos testing entails.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral. It became popular in the construction industry during the mid-1900s thanks to its insulating, flame-retardant, and nonconductive properties. As a result, many homes and buildings built before the 1980s have asbestos-containing materials, including insulation, flooring, drywall, siding, roofing shingles, and pipes.

Types of Asbestos

Many people are surprised to learn that asbestos comes in six forms: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. While these different types of asbestos are distinct from one another, they all contain long, fibrous crystals that can escape into the air and cause serious health problems.

Why is Asbestos Exposure Dangerous?

The short-term effects of asbestos exposure affect the lungs and your ability to breathe. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chronic cough
  • Chest, back, and stomach pain
  • Weight loss
  • Discomfort when swallowing
  • Fatigue

Be aware that most people don’t develop symptoms of asbestos exposure right away. In fact, it can take months or even years for signs to develop. If you continue breathing asbestos-filled air, the long-term effects may include:

  • Bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Lung cancer
  • Larynx and kidney cancer
  • Mesothelioma (cancer that attacks the membrane around the lungs, heart, and other abdominal organs)
  • Asbestosis (chronic, inflammatory lung disease)
  • Asbestos pleural disease (similar to asbestosis but affecting the lining of the lungs)

Testing for Asbestos

If you live in an older home, don’t panic. Asbestos is only dangerous if the fibers become airborne. Stable, undisturbed asbestos may not require testing and removal. However, if a material that possibly contains asbestos has been damaged or will be disturbed by upcoming renovation work, testing is critical.

There are two primary types of asbestos air testing: phase-contrast microscopy (PCM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM)

Phase-Contrast Microscopy

PCM is a simple, quick, and low-cost test that identifies the number of respirable fibers in the air. While this is effective for determining the concentration of fibers, it’s not as accurate as TEM because it can’t differentiate between asbestos and other airborne materials, such as cellulose or fiberglass. If PCM reveals a significant fiber concentration, it may be necessary to perform more robust TEM asbestos testing.

Transmission Electron Microscopy

TEM utilizes a powerful electron microscope to accurately identify the concentration and type of airborne fibers. The superior technology behind this test makes it more costly, and results aren’t available for several days.

Contact an Asbestos Testing Company

DKI is a licensed disaster restoration company with the proper training and equipment to test for and remove hazardous materials from buildings, including asbestos, mold, and lead. If you suspect you may be exposed to asbestos in your home, contact us online or call us at 844.345.2255 to discuss the next step.