There’s no time to wait for costly, time consuming lab-based analysis to find out if there are asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in your demolition, renovation or repair job. To protect worker health and the environment, you need to prevent asbestos exposure on site. The Thermo Scientific microPHAZIR AS Asbestos Analyzer is a handheld tool that enables in-field, rapid screening and identification of all six types of regulated asbestos fibers—chrysotile, crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite, actinolite and amosite—within seconds. Here are some frequently asked questions about asbestos testing, screening, and identification.

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A:  The term asbestos is a generic designation referring to six types of naturally occurring silicate mineral fibers: amosite, crocidolite, chrysotile, actinolite, tremolite, and anthophyllite.

Asbestos is characterized by its fiber strength and fire resistance.  This is because it is an insulator; asbestos does not conduct heat or electricity.  These characteristics mean asbestos is very useful in building and fireproofing materials such as roofing, building insulation, furnace cement, gaskets, stucco, plaster, fire doors and walls, thermal pipe insulation, and window glazing.

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A. Asbestos can be found in over 3,000 products in daily use. It is used in building materials, heat- and fire-resistant fabrics, packaging and other materials because it has a high tensile strength, is flexible, has a high length to diameter ratio, and has thermal stability and low conductivity. More than 95% of all asbestos production is chrysotile [Mg3(Si2O5)(OH)4]. Asbestos is most commonly found in older homes, in pipe and furnace insulation materials, asbestos shingles, millboard, textured paints and other coating and caulking materials, and floor tiles.  It is also used in the automotive industry for brake pads, shoes and clutch plates.

A:  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns that exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung disease, and that “asbestos fibers may be released into the air by the disturbance of asbestos-containing material during product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, remodeling, and the recycling of construction materials. In general, exposure may occur only when the asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged in some way to release particles and fibers into the air.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans causing cancer of the lungs, larynx, ovaries, and mesothelioma, a cancer of the pleural and peritoneal linings.  Asbestos also causes such diseases as asbestosis, and pleural thickening.

A:  There are regulations imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who enforces usage, manufacture and disposal of asbestos.  The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) enforces asbestos and other worker safety. There are also important associations who monitor the use of asbestos, including the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA www.aiha.org) and the Environmental Information Association (EIA www.eia-usa.org).

The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) was authorized by the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1986:

  • Rules and regulations to govern use of Asbestos including bans and phase out (modified in 1990s due to appeals of original bans)
  • 40 CFR Part 763
  • Provides guidelines for inspection, analysis methods and asbestos management/abatement (1% threshold)
  • Enabled the creation of the asbestos inspection and abatement industry

The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) was authorized by the Clean Air Act in 1970:

  • 40 CFR Part 61 and 63
  • Prohibits the construction or modification of “stationary” sources that may potentially introduce hazardous material into the air

EU Regulations include Directive 2009/148/EC covering regulation on asbestos: “The single maximum limit value for airborne concentration of asbestos is 0.1 fibres per cm3 as an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA).” (Recent Annex driving EU to total ban by 2025.)  There are similar regulations in Japan and other areas around the world.

Asbestos has been banned in 73 countries including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, the European Union, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.

A: Identification and abatement of asbestos is a growing concern for federal, state, and municipal environmental agencies, demolition, construction, and renovation companies, property developers and owners, waste management and recycling companies, and local communities. Before starting a project that disturbs asbestos, contractors should be aware that disturbed asbestos is very hazardous to building site workers and visitors. Safe removal of asbestos usually requires respirators, liquid wetting agents, a negative air pressure enclosure and special training to prevent worker and building occupant exposure to the microscopic fibers.

Inspectors need to quickly assess, qualify and report the presence of asbestos at demolition and renovation sites, as well as in manufactured goods, to reduce the risk of human exposure. (Read the blog article: Asbestos: A Threat to Demolition Worker Health)

Landfill operators also must monitor for asbestos contamination. It’s illegal to knowingly dispose of asbestos in a landfill. Demolition companies in many states must test their construction and demolition (C&D) waste and certify that it’s “clean”, meaning that it is free from asbestos and lead, before placing it in a municipal landfill.  An “asbestos survey” certifying that there’s no asbestos may be required at landfill sites before C&D can be disposed of.

C&D materials containing asbestos are regulated by the EPA and must be disposed of separately from other C&D materials. The EPA has developed minimum technical criteria that industrial landfills must meet (40 CFR Part 257). Solid waste disposal, including nonhazardous industrial waste, is overseen by the states. Some states may impose requirements that are more stringent than the federal requirements.   (See blog article: Three Reasons Landfills Can be Viewed as Piles of Threats: Asbestos, Lead, and Radiation.)

A: Asbestos testing is often limited to accredited lab based analysis such as polarized light microscopy (PLM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and x-ray diffraction. Relying solely on time-consuming, off-site testing labs is simply too risky when personal and public safety is at stake. Lab-based tests are costly and can become even more expensive if a quick turnaround is required. Field-based testing can reduce the need and cost associated with outsourced laboratory testing.

Instant, on-the-spot asbestos screening can be accomplished with nondestructive chemical analysis utilizing near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy. The Thermo Scientific microPHAZIR AS Asbestos Analyzer is a powerful tool that enables in-field rapid screening and uses the power of near-infrared spectroscopy to perform accurate on-site analysis in seconds.

A: A spectroscopic method that uses the near-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, NIR spectroscopy is based on overtones and combinations of bond vibrations in molecules. NIR is utilized because it is a proven technology that delivers clear results when it comes to asbestos inspection, testing and screening.  You can learn more about the technology by visiting our NIR Technology website page.

A: The microPHAZIR AS analyzer enables in-field, rapid screening and identification of all six types of regulated asbestos fibers—chrysotile, crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite, actinolite and amosite.

One should avoid samples coated with paint, oil, mastic, tar, asphalt, or any protective coating.  These samples will require sample preparation such as removing the protective layer. Do not analyze dark samples containing carbon black or any other black surface because they may reflect too little light to permit proper analysis. Do not analyze irregularly shaped samples, as this will not produce quality data. The microPHAZIR requires flat samples, and should not be moved during the scan.

A: The microPHAZIR AS Asbestos Analyzer weighs 2.75 lb. (1.25 kg) and is completely self-contained.

A:  Most handheld NIR spectroscopy instruments, including the Thermo Scientific microPHAZIR AS analyzer, can be performed by non-technical operators with limited training. Point-and-shoot operation provides results in seconds. Workers screening material can easily be trained and do not need to be experts in NIR spectroscopy to make decisions based on the device’s results.

A: Sample preparation with NIR is reduced or eliminated compared to previous screening methods available. In some cases crushing the sample may help. The maximum depth of penetration is generally less than 2.3 mm.

A: The microPHAZIR AS comes in a sturdy storm case with everything needed to begin screening for asbestos-containing materials including two re-chargeable batteries, self-test samples, and a battery charger.

A: The microPHAZIR AS does not need to be calibrated on a regular or annual basis. It includes samples that can be used to make sure the instrument is working properly.

A:  NIR is used for nondestructive chemical analysis. The light source for the Thermo Scientific microPHAZIR AS analyzer is a Tungsten light bulb, safe for operators and sample integrity. As with all technical instruments, the best possible operating safety can only be guaranteed if general safety precautions as well as special safety instructions in operator manuals are followed.

Featured Customer Testimonial

Recovery 1 Identifies Asbestos Promptly.  The Quality Control Manager at the Recovery 1 waste management operation explained why they use handheld NIR devices for asbestos screening.  “All our loads have to be screened and inspected, and when it comes to asbestos, we take it very seriously because it affects health and safety. Without the microPHAZIR, it would be a lot more difficult for us to detect asbestos immediately and remove it from our premises. The analyzer makes my job a lot easier.”

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Featured Product Specification Sheet

Detecting asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in homes and commercial buildings prior to demolition or renovation is critical to prevent asbestos exposure. The Thermo Scientific microPHAZIR AS analyzer can be used in the field and streamlines inspection without compromising accuracy. View the Thermo Scientific microPHAZIR AS Handheld Asbestos Analyzer Product Specifications Sheet.

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NIR Technology
A proven technology that delivers clear results

For applications such as pharmaceutical, food, agriculture and asbestos testing and screening, NIR (near infrared) spectroscopy is a proven technology that delivers clear results.

A spectroscopic method that uses the near-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, NIR is based on overtones and combinations of bond vibrations in molecules. The following sections give you a general overview of how NIR works as well as application-specific information to help you learn more about this important tool for the analysis of industrial materials.

Visit the NIR Technology page