Environmental Laboratory Supervisor
Asbestos is the name of a group of similar minerals with separable, long, and thin fibers. It is a natural mineral fiber that was used in in the past in products primarily because of its fire-retardant capability and strength. Asbestos has long been suspected as a health threat to humans, because the fibers can be inhaled and are difficult to remove from the lungs. Although the use of these products has dramatically decreased, they are still found in many residential and commercial settings and continue to pose a health risk to workers and others.
Where can asbestos be found?
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, materials found in homes that may contain asbestos include but are not limited to:
- Some roofing and siding shingles may be made of asbestos cement.
- Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos insulation.
- Prior to 1977 asbestos may have been used in textured paint and patching compounds used for wall and ceiling joints.
- Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces
- Older products such as stove top pads
- Walls and floors around wood burning stoves may have been protected with asbestos paper, millboard or cement sheets.
- Vinyl floor tiles and backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives
- Hot water and steam pipes in older homes may be coated with asbestos material, blanket or tape.
- Oil and coal furnaces and door gasket insulation
How are samples collected?
If possible, sampling should be conducted by a qualified professional as the process of sampling can result in an increased health risk if asbestos fibers are released. If you choose to collect the sample yourself, please observe the following steps:
- Gather materials necessary to collect sample, including disposable gloves, plastic sheeting, water bottle with mister, small knife, corer, sample container (35 mm film canister or re-sealable plastic bag), disposable wet towel and, if available, an N 100 respirator.
- The sampling process is to be conducted in a manner that minimizes release of the asbestos fibers into the air.
- Plan what materials are to be sampled while considering the sample must be representative of the material present. For layered materials, a complete cross section of the material is necessary to represent the entire composition of the material. Sample size should be at least the size of a quarter. Whenever possible, a sample size should not exceed 2 inches square. An example of a layered material is vinyl sheeting and the mastic used to adhere the sheeting.
- If sample collection may result in debris falling, place plastic sheeting under the area to be sampled.
- Ensure ventilation (heating, air conditioning, fans, etc.) is shutdown to prevent fiber release.
- If available, while wearing respirator, wet the area using fine mist of water to prevent fiber release.
- Carefully cut, core or collect a representative sample and place in clean container (example: put the sample in a Ziploc bag and put that bag into a second Ziploc bag).
- Seal container tightly and label with date, time, material type and person collecting the sample.
- If used, carefully dispose of plastic sheet. Use a damp disposable towel to clean any material on the outside of the container and in/around area sampled.
- Contact Hygienic Laboratory Client Services for a sample information form. Deliver or mail the sample and the sample information form in a tightly sealed container to State Hygienic Laboratory at The University of Iowa, University of Iowa Research Park, Attention Sample Receiving, 2490 Crosspark Road, Coralville, Iowa 52241
Last updated July 15, 2015