Testing for Asbestos

A yellow tape with a "danger" sign.

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.

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

Asbestos is dangerous when it's friable. This is when the asbestos breaks up and the small particles float in the air. All asbestos removal should be left 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. Here are a few tips for choosing an asbestos testing kit. 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 to any of these accredited asbestos testing labs. The results are returned within two weeks.

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