Asbestos Sampling Kits: The Truth
Last Updated on 18 July 2023
What are asbestos sampling kits?
Sampling kits or ‘asbestos testing kits’ are commonly available online for purchase. However, there are a range of different view’s prevailing in their use and whether they should be used at all.
As a result, in the following article we will explore what these views are and any pitfalls.
Most asbestos sampling kits are a collection of PPE (personal protective equipment) including a disposable suit, mask, gloves, sample bags and relevant instructions on how to use the contents.
Any samples collected are then sent to a laboratory in a pre supplied envelope and the results arrive following analysis.
Asbestos Sampling Kits – A good idea or not?
So, on the face of it, pretty straightforward. Or maybe not? Most of us in the asbestos industry tend to see these sampling kits as a bad idea. The general reasons being as follows;-
- No training is provided other than a basic instruction sheet.
- You can sample any type of potential asbestos product from dangerous to relatively benign
- You are posting asbestos via Royal Mail or a parcel service.
- The PPE may be the wrong type and inappropriate. You are also left with waste PPE, possibly contaminated – will it be disposed of appropriately?
- Your results arrive. But then what do you then do with the information?
Let’s look in a little more detail at these questions and at the same time try and take a practical approach.
Why do people want to use an asbestos sampling kit?
Firstly, Why do people want to purchase these asbestos sampling kits when they find out they are available? I believe we at RB Asbestos, as a consultancy, have a pretty good idea.
Our organisation have for a number of years received daily phone calls and emails about asbestos. These individuals come from a range of sectors and for a variety of reasons. Including;-
- Domestic clients who are undertaking DIY and building work. In some cases they have already started and damaged products they believe could contain asbestos.
- Commercial clients, builders, plumbers, roofers etc who are on a job or about to start a job and questions about asbestos have been raised.
The reason we get so many calls/emails (sometimes up to 20 a day) is because we have written a number of successful blogs in relation to asbestos and these are picked up by internet searches. We also provide free advice to everyone as a kind of pay it forward mentality within our organisation.
There are lots of types of asbestos containing products
The popular misconception is, that there are only a few types of asbestos. Which is actually true. However, there are up to 4000 different types of asbestos products.
Asbestos isn’t often seen in its natural fibrous form (it’s a rock mineral). It’s nearly always found within other products. We refer to these as ‘asbestos containing materials’ or ACM’s for short.
They range from low risk (well bonded with a few percent asbestos content) up to loose fibrous materials which are 100% asbestos.
In addition, the condition of these materials is also relevant in relation to personal risk. For example, Is this a small piece of cement in a yard you wish to sample, or are you stood in a room full of smashed and broken asbestos insulation board AIB?
These are all relevant and real situations. We don’t live in a perfect world and people will make mistakes through lack of knowledge or awareness. Or in some cases, they just don’t care either way.
So should you use an asbestos sampling kit or not?
For industry professionals to say an asbestos sampling kit should never be used (I used to be one with this view, but have now softened) is probably unfair.
In certain limited situations, they can be a cost effective and practical solution. As an organisation, we don’t sell these, but we provide advice to people who wish to purchase them.
To sum up, our general rule is that these sampling kits should only be used for low risk asbestos products. For example, these might include flooring, roof tiles/ sheeting, mastics and Artex (textured coatings).
Furthermore, the training instructions supplied are basic. So we talk people through the practicalities and safety.
Additionally, some of these asbestos sampling kits can contain incorrect PPE. The disposable mask should be FFP3 rated as a minimum. However, some of these kits can contain FFP2, which won’t adequately filter asbestos fibres.
Face masks should ideally be ‘face fit tested’. However, those provided in the asbestos sampling kits will not be, and as a minimum, the user should be ‘clean shaven’ to allow a proper seal.
Waste PPE should be taken to an appropriate facility that accepts such waste and not just thrown in the domestic supply. In addition, any samples sent by courier should be clearly identified and safely sealed. However, In most cases it’s better to hand deliver to the laboratory where possible.
People don’t know what to do with test results
Subsequently, we also get a number of calls from people who have their ‘results’ and then don’t know what to do with the information. So one of the failings of these asbestos sampling kits is the ‘front end help’ and ‘back end advice’.
To demonstrate this, here’s a typical scenario – your test kit results come back and it’s asbestos. But what’s the product? (as this is important). If it’s a ‘licensed’ product, you are required to use a HSE licensed contractor. If it’s a low risk product, the contractor should be appropriately trained to undertake any work.
You have identified one ACM in the property you are working in. Therefore, If you haven’t had a survey by a professional asbestos surveyor, then chances are there could be other asbestos products present you were not aware of.
In order to save money, whatever the correct advice, some individuals will do the work themselves. We strongly advise against this unless you have received appropriate training for lower risk asbestos products.
In conclusion, we would suggest use of these asbestos sampling kits be on a very limited basis, and after taking advice prior to their use. Anyone selling these kits who can’t provide up front or back end advice should probably be avoided. If you are uncertain, then please seek professional advice.
Finally, a big thank you to Mr Paul Beaumont at 1-11 Compliance for his assistance in writing this article.
Need asbestos advice?
If you need any help or advice at all with any aspect of asbestos then we’ll be very happy to assist you. Give us a call and our experts will give you some advice and guidance on whatever if is you’re concerned about.
Our professional asbestos surveyors conduct asbestos inspections and asbestos surveys every day across the UK on all types of properties, both residential and commercial, for private home owners and commercial property Managers and owners. So when it comes to managing asbestos in your property, you’re in very safe hands with RB Asbestos Consultants.