There are two main methods of testing the amount of asbestos present in a sample. Each method requires specialized equipment and skills to properly perform, which makes it essential that the laboratory work-up is performed by a trained professional who has experience performing the test to obtain the best results.
Polonium-210 (Polonium-210) Testing: This method of how laboratories detect asbestos involves giving the samples a strong dose of polonium-210 (a radioactive isotope of Polonium-210) and measuring the amount of time that elapses before the sample decays.
The more time elapses before the sample decays, the higher the amount of contamination in the sample. Ideally, a high radiation dosage should be given to the sample to achieve a high level of contamination, and the longer the time elapses, the higher the contamination.
After the sample is measured, the levels of contamination can be measured against a reference standard and compared to ensure that the amount of contamination in the sample is accurate. If the amount of contamination is too high, the sample is deemed to be contaminated with asbestos and an accurate lab report is issued to the client.
The best way to determine if the sample has been contaminated with asbestos is to send it to a lab that specializes in how laboratories detect asbestos. A certified lab will have equipment that can detect high levels of asbestos in a sample and will also have professionals on hand who are trained to correctly interpret lab reports.
Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) Analysis: In this method of how laboratories detect asbestos, a sample is placed in a chamber where it is exposed to high energy electrons. The atoms in the sample absorb the electrons and this absorption results in changes in the material. The TEM specialist can see the images of the samples and the amount of contamination.
The technician will be able to tell if the sample is contaminated with asbestos. A laboratory that performs this test will require a sample that is free of contamination to do this test. Testing by this method is more accurate than using a non-invasive technique. Since this is a very expensive test, most labs will test for a specific amount of asbestos contamination. Learn more on how to stay safe from loose-fill asbestos insulation.