Don’t DIY: the pitfalls of buying & using your own asbestos testing kit

Don’t DIY: the pitfalls of buying & using your own asbestos testing kit

While they’re readily (and increasingly) available online, there are various reasons why it’s not always a great idea to use a DIY asbestos testing kit. Of course, these home kits can seem quick, easy and relatively inexpensive, and it’s understandable that people are looking to save money, especially in the current climate. However, anyone opting to do their own asbestos testing needs to understand the potential pitfalls – so here we highlight the dangers, and outline the reasons why only an accredited asbestos surveyor should undertake asbestos testing.

So – What is Asbestos Testing, And Can You Do It Yourself?

Clearly, if you’re concerned that your home or workplace may have asbestos, a DIY testing pack allows you to take samples yourself of the materials you think may contain the harmful substance.

A DIY asbestos testing pack generally comes with everything you need, including personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a mask and disposable gloves.

Nearly all of these work in two stages – you collect samples of the suspect materials then post them off to an asbestos lab for analysis and confirmation of whether or not you have asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in your home or workplace. (And the lab may charge its own fee, which can add more to the cost of home testing than you think.)

With a minority of these DIY kits, you do the testing as well as gathering samples; they come with a chemical agent for this purpose – and you’ll then need to study the results accurately.

In recent years, do-it-yourself asbestos testing kits have become more easily available over the internet. But while these may seem an initially tempting option, we explain the possible issues with these kits below.

Should You Use a Home Asbestos Testing Kit?

In fact, there are many reasons why only a qualified professional should be involved in a job as important as testing for potentially lethal asbestos:

Accuracy: The equipment provided in an asbestos home-testing kit can often be somewhat basic. Unless you have previous experience of testing for asbestos, it isn’t always easy to take the right samples effectively. It will be hard to be 100% certain whether what you have sent off for laboratory analysis truly represents the materials at your property. If you’re also doing the actual analysis yourself, as a layperson it’s even harder to guarantee accuracy.
Tricky to identify: Especially to the untrained eye, microscopic asbestos fibres can be all but impossible to identify, not least if (as is frequently the case) they are mixed up in a mesh of different materials.
Exposure to asbestos: If you suspect your home or workplace has asbestos, unfortunately, you could well be right. And if that’s indeed the case, and you are exposed to asbestos, the consequences can be dire and even fatal. Health risks linked with this deadly stuff include asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, another (and aggressive) type of cancer.
Unreliable: Masks supplied in DIY testing kits don’t always offer the best protection against airborne asbestos-containing fibres. Once inhaled, asbestos can remain lodged in your body, leading to health issues, often even years later.
Disturbance: By carrying out testing yourself, you could disturb and release asbestos fibres. So you’re exposing both yourself and others living or working in the property or visiting it to the high risks of this substance. A professional service ensures that a place is safe once testing is complete – after all, it’s only after a disturbance that the real dangers of asbestos arise.
Sealing: Once testing is done, the areas where samples have been taken must be sealed so no fibres can escape and land on furniture, clothes or anything else. Are you confident you would be able to do this sealing effectively yourself?

Why It Is Important To Use An Accredited Asbestos Testing Facility

A professional asbestos testing service works methodically across a property to identify the existence of any ACMs. It will scrutinise areas that you may not have considered, but which may have asbestos, such as in insulation and the ceiling tiles.

Qualified, experienced testers know what to look for, exactly what to send off to be analysed, how to test safely and protect themselves and others. Equally, they will know about fibre disturbance, how to handle ACMSs and how to make a site 100% safe post-testing.

Summing up

For all the reasons described above, home testing for asbestos can prove to be a real false economy, despite the obvious initial temptations. And you’ll nearly always be safer calling in a professional – unfortunately, asbestos is a deadly enemy, and genuinely isn’t something you want to take any chances with.

At Core Surveys, we’re accredited for asbestos surveys and testing plus mobile analysis, not forgetting air testing as well. We operate all over Wales and the South East, from Cardiff to Bristol, Brighton, Sussex and Kent.