Asbestos

Asbestos exposure is a serious health concern, often hidden within the structures of our everyday environments. Understanding and managing the risks associated with asbestos begins with accurate identification and informed assessment. The image below represents the crucial work carried out by professionals in the field, who utilize advanced microscopic techniques to detect and analyze the presence of asbestos fibers. Our dedicated team prioritizes safety and the prevention of exposure, ensuring that buildings are inspected thoroughly and any asbestos-containing materials are handled with the utmost care and expertise. With a focus on safeguarding public health, we deliver comprehensive inspection services tailored to identify, assess, and provide solutions for asbestos-related challenges.

Table of Contents

A popcorn ceiling

Identification and assessment

A fiber cannot be identified or ruled out as asbestos, either using the naked eye or by simply looking at a fiber under a regular microscope. The most common methods of identifying asbestos fibers are by using polarized light microscopy (PLM) or transmission electron microscopy (TEM). PLM is less expensive, but TEM is more precise and can be used at lower concentrations of asbestos.​

​NWA Mold Inspector takes samples and sends them to a certified asbestos testing laboratory to be inspected for any present asbestos content. An asbestos survey will describe the condition and location of ACM if present.

If asbestos abatement is performed, completion of the abatement is verified using visual confirmation and may also involve air sampling. Air samples are typically analyzed using phase contrast microscopy (PCM). PCM involves counting fibers on a filter using a microscope, and is the standard for airborne occupational exposure limits for asbestos.​

Safety and exposure prevention

Asbestos is most dangerous if it becomes airborne such as from deterioration or damage. The people most at risk for exposure are those who are disturbing asbestos containing materials or those who clean up the disturbed material.

Today, in the United States, several thousand products manufactured and/or imported today still contain asbestos. In many parts of the industrialized world, particularly the European Union, asbestos was phased out of building products beginning in the 1970s with most of the remainder phased out by the 1980s. Even with an asbestos ban in place, however, asbestos may be found in many buildings that were built and/or renovated from the late 1800s through the present day.

Residential building materials containing asbestos include a variety of products, such as:

  • Stipple used in textured walls and ceilings
  • Drywall joint filler compound
  • Vermiculite
  • Vinyl floor tile
  • Vinyl sheet flooring
  • Window putty
  • Mastic
  • Cement board, millboard, and paper insulation around furnaces and wood stoves
  • Asbestos cement pipes and flues
  • Steam pipes, boilers, and furnace ducts
  • Furnace tape
  • Door gaskets in furnaces, wood stoves, and coal stoves
  • Artificial ashes and embers
  • Stucco
  • Roofing materials
  • Soundproofing Materials
  • Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos insulation
  • Houses built before 1977 may have textured paint, patching compounds, and ceiling joints containing asbestos
a person in a hazmat suit
A person wearing a face mask

Common symptoms of asbestos exposure


​In most cases, symptoms don't appear until about 20 years after exposure, but may appear anywhere from 10 to 40 years after exposure. ​

Common symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in chest
  • Chest pain
  • Persistent dry cough
  • Appetite loss
  • Finger clubbing, or enlarged fingertips
  • Nail deformities

What makes asbestos hazardous

Inhaled asbestos fibers become embedded in the lining of the lungs which leads to the formation of scar tissue. This process is known as asbestosis. This scarring can make breathing difficult by preventing the lungs from expanding and contracting naturally, and can reduce the usable surface area the lungs need to allow air into your body. Being a smoker increases your risk of asbestosis if you have been exposed to asbestos.​ ​

A person in a hazmat suit holding a page of asbestos

Frequently Asked Questions

I have popcorn ceilings. What do I do?

If your home has popcorn ceilings, particularly if it was built before the 1980s, there's a chance they might contain asbestos. The first step is to avoid disturbing them, as this can release harmful asbestos fibers into the air. To safely address popcorn ceilings, you should hire a professional asbestos abatement team to take a sample and test it for asbestos. If asbestos is present, the safest course of action is professional removal or encapsulation to prevent exposure. It's crucial to not attempt removal yourself, as improper handling can pose serious health risks.

Will my home be reported if it has asbestos?

Whether your home will be reported if it contains asbestos largely depends on local regulations and the context in which the asbestos is discovered. In many places, there are no mandatory reporting requirements for homeowners who find asbestos in their homes. However, if you're undertaking renovation or demolition work that requires a permit, local building codes might require an asbestos survey and, if asbestos is found, proper removal or management plans to be filed with local health or building departments. Similarly, if you're selling your home, disclosure laws in many areas require you to inform potential buyers about known asbestos in the property. It's important to consult local regulations and possibly seek legal advice to understand your obligations.

What does asbestos do to humans?

Asbestos fibers, when inhaled, can cause serious health issues in humans due to their small size and sharp, durable nature. These fibers can become lodged in the lung tissue, leading to inflammation, scarring (asbestosis), and even genetic damage to the body's cells. Over time, exposure to asbestos increases the risk of developing life-threatening diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer affecting the lining of the lungs or abdomen), and other types of cancer. Symptoms of asbestos-related diseases often take decades to appear after exposure, making them particularly insidious and difficult to diagnose early.

Is all asbestos cancerous?

Not all asbestos exposure leads to cancer, but all forms of asbestos have the potential to be carcinogenic. Asbestos fibers, when inhaled, can cause serious diseases, including lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer of the thin membranes that line the chest and abdomen), and asbestosis (a non-cancerous lung disease). The risk of developing cancer from asbestos exposure depends on several factors, including the duration and intensity of exposure, the type of asbestos fibers, and individual health factors such as smoking status. While not every exposure results in cancer, the potential risk is significant, making it important to manage and minimize asbestos exposure.

Asbestos for Contractors

Asbestos, once a common component in insulation, flooring, ceiling tiles, shingles, and siding, is known for its durability. However, it's also linked to significant health risks when disturbed. Identifying and managing asbestos is critical during any renovation or demolition project to protect health and the environment.

Three city officials talking
Two people in mold inspection suits

Asbestos for Municipal Officials

Asbestos may be found in insulation, flooring, ceiling sections, shingles, or siding. Health studies have linked asbestos fibers to serious health problems. The mere presence of asbestos in a building is not an immediate risk to people and the environment; however, danger exists when asbestos material is damaged or improperly removed and releases fibers into the air.

Asbestos for Fire Departments

During a fire, firefighters can be exposed to a broad spectrum of building materials and in older buildings some of these materials can contain asbestos. Fires may cause non-friable asbestos materials (materials in which the asbestos fibers are not easily broken apart) to become friable so firefighter exposure to a hazard such as asbestos warrants special consideration and procedures.

Firefighter standing in front of a fire

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What are our customers saying?

Brian went above and beyond to assess my situation with a free initial phone consult and provided incredibly detailed and helpful knowledge to set me well on my way. His customer service is excellent and you can tell he truly cares about the wellbeing of his customers. Thank you Brian

Great company. Brian answered my call when I considered it to be "after hours". Brian had me send him some pictures of the areas in concern, and gave me suggestions to follow until he could arrive. Brian then gave me an estimated time of arrival. He was prompt to keep his appointment time and let me know prior to his arrival. Brian was very professional and polite, also very educated in his field.

Brian was great - he was able to squeeze me in the day after I called after a slight panic of having possibly disturbed unknown asbestos in our new home with popcorn ceilings. He was quick, thorough, competitively priced and we had our results the next day!

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Asbestos is most dangerous when airborne, which can occur from deterioration or damage. Today, in the United States, asbestos can regularly be found in manufactured and/or imported products.

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