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What Experts Look For in Asbestos Testing


Asbestos testing is a crucial step in ensuring the safety of buildings and the people who occupy them. While it may seem straightforward, the process involves meticulous procedures. Specialised knowledge and expertise are needed to accurately detect and evaluate asbestos. This article explores asbestos testing, including the procedures, tools, and expertise involved.

Whether you’re a business owner, homeowner, property manager, or contractor, understanding these aspects is vital for making informed decisions regarding asbestos management. By appreciating the complexity and importance of effective asbestos detection, you can choose the right team to manage your asbestos detection or asbestos removal projects. 

In This Guide:

Understanding Asbestos Testing

Asbestos testing is the process of identifying and evaluating the presence of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in buildings. It involves various procedures and effective management strategies as well as tools, and expertise to ensure accurate results.

Main Asbestos Testing Processes

  • Sample Collection: Trained professionals collect samples of suspected ACMs following strict protocols to minimise the potential for exposure and contamination.
  • Laboratory Analysis: Samples are analysed using specialised techniques such as Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) and Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) to accurately identify and quantify asbestos fibres.
  • Reporting: Comprehensive reports are provided, detailing the analysis findings including recommendations for asbestos management or removal if necessary.

Asbestos Testing Lab Analysis Process

In the laboratory analysis phase of asbestos testing, samples collected from various sources undergo a detailed examination to determine the presence and type of asbestos fibres. 


In the first analysis stage, trained analysts utilise stereo microscopes within dust cabinets equipped with negative pressure and high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. This setup ensures a controlled environment free from contamination. Each sample is carefully opened within the dust cabinet and placed in a disposable petri dish for examination.

Analysts visually inspect the samples, looking for specific characteristics consistent with asbestos fibres. These characteristics include the appearance and physical properties of the fibres, which inform the choice of refractive index (RI) liquid for the next stage of analysis.

Polarised Light Microscopy (PLM)

In the second stage of analysis, analysts utilise polarised light microscopy (PLM) along with the selected RI liquid to further examine the suspect fibres. The process involves precise techniques to prepare the sample for analysis.

Analysts apply the appropriate RI liquid to a slide outside the dust cabinet and then add the suspect fibre to the liquid within the cabinet. A coverslip is placed over the fibre, preparing the sample for PLM analysis.

Under filters on the PLM, analysts examine the fibres for various properties, including morphology, colour, pleochroism, extinction characteristics, signs of elongation, and dispersion staining. This qualitative analysis identifies the type of asbestos present in the sample.

Recording Asbestos Analysis

Throughout the analysis process, analysts meticulously record each stage of their examination within an approved database system, ensuring traceability and documentation of results.

Handling Negative Samples

In cases where initial stereomicroscopy indicates no visible asbestos fibres in a sample, additional testing is carried out to analyse the sample thoroughly. Analysts may take random sub-samples for further PLM analysis.

This meticulous and controlled laboratory analysis process ensures the reliability and accuracy of our testing results.

Importance of Accreditation in Asbestos Analysis

UKAS accreditation ensures that laboratories adhere to strict quality standards, providing reliable and accurate testing results. Environmental Inspection works with UKAS accredited labs to ensure the highest level of quality and reliability in asbestos testing.

Key Takeaways for Asbestos Testing

  • Accurate asbestos testing requires adherence to strict procedures and protocols.
  • UKAS accreditation ensures the reliability and quality of asbestos testing results.
  • Specialised tools such as microscopes and techniques like PLM and TEM are essential for accurate analysis.
  • Expertise and experience are vital for effective asbestos testing and management.

Asbestos Testing FAQs

What are the health risks associated with asbestos exposure?

Asbestos exposure can lead to serious health issues such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

How long does asbestos testing take?

Our analyses are returned within 3 working days typically, but we can arrange for same-day results if required. Either way, in line with HSG 248 guidelines, a negative sample must be checked for a minimum of 15 minutes.

The duration of asbestos testing depends on various factors, such as the number of samples and the complexity of the analysis.

What should I do if asbestos is found in my building?

If asbestos is found, it’s essential to develop a management plan and if necessary arrange for safe removal by licensed professionals to minimise the risk of exposure.

Enquire About Asbestos Testing

Asbestos testing is a critical aspect of building safety and management for any building built before 2000 in the UK. By understanding the procedures, tools, and expertise involved, people can make informed decisions to protect themselves and others from the dangers of asbestos exposure. If you require asbestos testing or management services, Environmental Inspection is here to help. We offer a comprehensive range, including asbestos surveys, analysis, management, and removal project management. Contact us today to learn more and ensure the safety of your property.

Learn More About Asbestos Testing


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