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Asbestos monitoring, air sampling

Monitoring Asbestos

24th August 2016

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that was commonly used as a building material in homes and commercial properties until the end of the 20th Century. Its popularity as a construction material was a consequence of a number of desirable properties which include fire resistance, heat insulation and ability to absorb sound.

There are three types of asbestos commonly used in buildings:

– Chrysotile (white asbestos)
– Crocidolite (blue asbestos)
– Amosite (brown asbestos)

However, during the last few decades of the 20th Century, the risks associated with asbestos exposure began to be better understood. Asbestos is now known to be the cause of a number of very serious diseases including mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and other respiratory conditions. As a consequence the use of asbestos in most countries is now banned.

Unfortunately, late recognition of the dangers associated with asbestos has meant that millions of buildings across the world contain this lethal material. This leads to the need for careful monitoring of affected homes/offices to ensure that those working/living nearby are not put at risk.

When is Asbestos Dangerous?

Asbestos is most dangerous when airborne. This is because airborne fibres may be inhaled or swallowed. Inhaled across a period of time, these fibres accumulate in the lungs causing scarring, inflammation, breathing difficulties, cancer, and in the worst case, death.

Should you suspect the presence of asbestos in your home or workplace, it is very important that you do not attempt to remove it yourself. Moving the material will disturb the asbestos causing the fibres to become airborne. Please contact a company licensed to remove asbestos.

How can I monitor Airborne Asbestos?

Anyone with a duty of care for those working in areas containing asbestos should take steps to assess and manage the associated hazards. Typically, those working in the construction industry are most at risk. Should materials containing asbestos be identified, it is important that the likelihood of exposure to airborne fibres is determined. This can be achieved through the use of a gravimetric air sampler. Gravimetric air samplers use a pump to draw a known volume of air, for a set length of time, through a piece of filter paper. Once the sample has been taken, the filter paper is examined and asbestos fibres are identified and counted using Phase Contrast Microscopy (PCM). Detailed guidance on asbestos-related air sampling can be found on the in this publication by the UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

We offer a range of Large Volume Gravimetric Air Samplers and Personal Air Samplers. If you would like further information on the instruments, and how they can be used to protect against asbestos exposure, please get in touch on +44 (0) 20 8551 7000 or info@munroinstruments.com.