What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a group of six naturally occurring minerals that was used by manufacturers in commercial products because its heat resistance and strength. In 1971 the EPA recognized asbestos as a hazardous air pollutant and began regulating its use. The use of asbestos is not entirely banned in the United States, but renovation and demolition of buildings that have asbestos containing materials poses health risks and is regulated by the Clean Air Act. 


Chrysotile asbestos fibers in a natural state

Chrysotile asbestos fibers in a natural state

What materials in my home might contain asbestos?

Asbestos can be found in a variety of materials including pipe insulation, plasters, drywall and texture, vinyl flooring, roofing shingles, HVAC duct wrapping, popcorn ceilings, and tile. To see a full list of potentially asbestos-containing materials, visit the EPA website

What health risks does asbestos present?

Disturbing  these building materials causes asbestos fibers to become airborne and potentially inhaled. The prolonged inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious illnesses including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. More detailed information can be found on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry. Because of these health risks, there are regulations in place to protect workers and homeowners who may be exposed to airborne asbestos during construction. 

When do I need my home tested?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), and your local air agencies require that building materials be sampled and tested for presence of asbestos before renovation or demolition. For more information about regulations in your county, call our office: 253-941-4343 

How do I collect samples?

Samples should each be placed in their own airtight container (such as a ziplock bag) and labelled. 

  • Popcorn: Wet a small region using a spray bottle or sponge, then scrape roughly 2 tablespoons of material into an airtight container. 
  • Vinyl Flooring: Sampling vinyl floor is easiest from a corner or under a heating vent. Cut approximately one square inch of material, and if there are multiple layers, include all of them in your sample.
  • Wall texture: Wet the region to reduce dust, and use a box cutter or similar to cut a small square of texture. Make sure to include the layer of powder underneath the paint.

If you are unsure of how to collect samples of other materials, contact us for more information. If you are uncomfortable collecting your own samples, we also offer selective sampling services, in which our AHERA-certified building inspectors will go to your home and collect samples. Contact our lab for pricing and availability. 

We Help Protect You

Asbestos Northwest provides AHERA building surveys, sampling, and analytical services to determine if building materials or air samples present an asbestos threat to anyone working inside or on them. Learn more about our Lab Services

To find your Local Air Agency and their regulations, visit the Washington Dept. of Ecology.