Can I safely remove or try testing asbestos myself?
As a homeowner, you can choose to test for asbestos yourself. We recommend you leave asbestos testing to the professionals, but if you want to do it, we recommend you take the time to learn the risks and the right way to keep you and your family safe.
There is a lot of inconsistent advice out there on risks of exposure and safe ways to test. The most important risk to consider is that when you cut or disturb potential asbestos fibres to remove a segment for testing you are potentially changing it from encapsulated, safely contained, non-friable asbestos to friable asbestos.
Remember : you can’t see the microparticles of asbestos dust, so you can’t know whether or not you have exposed yourself to the deadly fibres. This is why we adopt and recommend a strict safety protocol, imagining the worst-case scenario as best practice to protect you from exposure.
Our recommended DIY protocol for testing asbestos:
Collecting a sample for asbestos identification
The first step is to take a small sample of the material you want to be tested for asbestos.
This is a simple thing to do, but there are basic safety precautions you must take.
Here’s our step-by-step guide
- Make sure there is no one who will walk through the testing area while you are testing asbestos.
- Keep pets out of the way and be especially mindful of children.
- If you are testing from a ceiling ensure plastic drop cloths are placed under your ladder.
- Collect your ceiling sample with a container ready to catch any falling debris that may become loose from scraping.
- Wear an appropriate respirator:Ordinary dust masks are not effective in preventing the inhalation of asbestos fibres and dust. You should wear either a half-face filter respirator fitted with a class P1 or P2 filter cartridge, or a class P1 or P2 disposable respirator appropriate for asbestos. Respiratory protection devices should comply with New Zealand Standard 1716. This number will always be displayed on the mask. To ensure that the respirator is effective, users should be clean-shaven, and the respirator should have a close fit.
- To prevent any contamination, wear disposable overalls and gloves.
- Wet the material to suppress dust release.
- Carefully collect a sample using hand tools rather than power tools (sample size should be 5-100 g). We recommend using pliers with the inside edges protected with a wet wipe.
- Place the sample (including the wet wipe if used) in a click-lock plastic bag.
- Double bag your sample in a second sealable plastic bag.
- After sampling, you should use paint to seal any broken material with the potential to cause airborne asbestos dust.
- Do not use a domestic vacuum to clean up any loose debris. Double bag your disposable overalls, drop sheet, and gloves and dispose of any materials used during the test at a disposal facility licensed to take asbestos.
- If in Doubt- get a professional in to do the job…