Testing for Asbestos

Asbestos is a mineral made up of long thin fibers that look similar to fiberglass. This material has strengthening, heat resistance, and soundproofing qualities. Because of this, it was used to make pipe insulation, ceiling and floor tile, paints and coatings, caulking, fire resistant fabrics and clothing, and brake pads.

It is a health hazard in over 840,000 homes, offices, and schools. Asbestos exposure over a long period of time can cause lung cancer. An estimated 20,000 people will die each year for the next 30 years from asbestos exposure. Here are some basics, and how to test for it to keep you and your loved ones safe.

The Basics

If uncoated, asbestos can become wet and turn to an oatmeal like consistency. After asbestos has been painted, water does not reach the fibers and so it can't be detected visually. Scraping and construction send asbestos particles into the air. Even covering the texture with a second layer of wall board shakes fibers loose.

All removal should be left up to professionals. There are now coatings that can enhance the encapsulation of asbestos in walls and ceilings that are highly effective in sealing it in. Naturally, future renovations and construction may break up the surface and will still release asbestos fibers.


Home asbestos test kits typically include two sample collectors and require a $15 lab analysis fee. Popcorn and textured ceilings, ceiling tiles, floor tiles, and pipe insulation should be checked. A simple to use laboratory test identifies asbestos fibers to as little as 1 percent content by weight, and is more sensitive than EPA guidelines using Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM). Take the samples following the directions on the test kit and send them into the lab. The results are returned within two weeks.

Asbestos is not something to tae lightly. Knowing what to look and test for will keep you and your loved ones safe.