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of Epoch Analytical Inc.

EPOCH is accredited with the US National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) for bulk asbestos sample analysis under NVLAP Code 200746-0.

NVLAP Lab Code: 200746-0

EPOCH is accredited with the Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation Inc. (CALA) for airborne fiber analysis (Membership No. 3533).

Testing Accreditation No. A 3533

We value your feedback.

  1. What is asbestos?
  2. Where Can I Find Asbestos And When Can It Be A Problem?
  3. How do asbestos fibers enter and leave the body?
  4. How can asbestos affect my health?
  5. I have asbestos in my home. Do I need to do anything about it to protect my health?
  6. What is vermiculite and is it asbestos containing?
  7. Where can I find out more information about asbestos in my home, business or property?

1. What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring silicate minerals. Mined and milled from native rock, asbestos is fibrous, thin, and strong. Chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite fibers are the most common types of asbestos minerals. However, only chrysotile, crocidolite, and amosite varieties are of industrial importance. Characteristics, like heat resistance, chemical inertness, and insulating capacity, coupled with the flexibility to be woven make asbestos suitable for use in many industrial applications.

pure form chrysotile

2. Where Can I Find Asbestos And When Can It Be A Problem?


Most products made today do not contain asbestos. Those few products made which still contain asbestos that could be inhaled are required to be labeled as such. However, until the 1970s, many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes contained asbestos. Common products that might have contained asbestos in the past, and conditions which may release fibers, include:

  1. STEAM PIPES, BOILERS, and FURNACE DUCTS insulated with an asbestos blanket or asbestos paper tape. These materials may release asbestos fibers if damaged, repaired, or removed improperly.
  2. RESILIENT FLOOR TILES (vinyl asbestos, asphalt, and rubber), the backing on VINYL SHEET FLOORING, and ADHESIVES used for installing floor tile. Sanding tiles can release fibers. So may scraping or sanding the backing of sheet flooring during removal.
  3. CEMENT SHEET, MILLBOARD, and PAPER used as insulation around furnaces and woodburning stoves. Repairing or removing appliances may release asbestos fibers. So may cutting, tearing, sanding, drilling, or sawing insulation.
  4. DOOR GASKETS in furnaces, wood stoves, and coal stoves. Worn seals can release asbestos fibers during use.
  5. SOUNDPROOFING OR DECORATIVE MATERIAL sprayed on walls and ceilings. Loose, crumbly, or water-damaged material may release fibers. So will sanding, drilling, or scraping the material.
  6. PATCHING AND JOINT COMPOUNDS for walls and ceilings, and TEXTURED PAINTS. Sanding, scraping, or drilling these surfaces may release asbestos.
  7. ASBESTOS CEMENT ROOFING, SHINGLES, and SIDING. These products are not likely to release asbestos fibers unless sawed, dilled, or cut. ARTIFICIAL ASHES AND EMBERS sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces. Also, other older household products such as FIREPROOF GLOVES, STOVE-TOP PADS, IRONING BOARD COVERS, and certain HAIRDRYERS.
  8. Common uses of Asbestos

3. How do asbestos fibers enter and leave the body?

What can it do

Asbestos lungs

Breathing asbestos-containing air into the lungs is the exposure route of greatest concern. Some of the asbestos fibers reaching the lungs are eliminated in exhaled air and others are coughed from the lungs with mucous. The fibers reaching the deepest air passages of the lungs can produce the greatest damage.

The digestive system can be exposed to asbestos fibers from drinking water and mucous cleared from the lungs. A small number of fibers may penetrate the cells that line the digestive system, but only a few will reach the bloodstream. These fibers will be released in the urine. Asbestos fibers contacting the skin rarely pass through the skin into the body.

4. How can asbestos affect my health?

Information on human health effects of asbestos comes mostly from long-term studies of people exposed to asbestos in the workplace. Asbestos workers who breathe in asbestos may develop a slow build-up of scar-like tissue in the lungs called asbestosis. This scarred tissue state impairs the ability of the lungs and heart to adequately provide oxygen to the body. This is a serious disease, and can eventually lead to disability or death in people exposed to high amounts of asbestos. Asbestos workers also have increased chances of developing two types of cancer: Lung cancer starts within the respiratory tissues, and mesothelial cancer grows from the thin membranes that surround the lung or the abdominal cavities. Both lung cancer and mesothelioma are usually fatal. These asbestos-related diseases do not appear immediately, but may develop 20 to 50 years after exposure.


The health effects from oral asbestos exposures are unclear. In some areas where the residents are exposed to asbestos fibers in the drinking water, cancers of the esophagus, stomach, and intestine may be a greater concern. After reviewing the scientific evidence from human experience and animal testing; however, health authorities are still unsure of asbestos links to cancer in the digestive system.

5. I have asbestos in my home. Do I need to do anything about it to protect my health?

Most of the time, no. The common materials used in home construction are floor tile, roofing and siding. These materials are very strong and don't readily crumble and release the asbestos fibers unless they are subjected to strong forces. Occasionally other materials such as pipe insulation and thermal insulation, such as batt or blown-in insulation, are used in home construction. If you determine that you have this type of material, through inspection and analysis by a properly qualified inspector and laboratory, you should seek the help of a consultant to aid you in determining what you need to do to remedy your situation. If you never have the need to disturb these materials, you may be able to leave them alone. But if you know that a needed repair or renovation will disturb the material, you may want to start planning with your consultant to test and abate the asbestos prior to the project.


6. What is vermiculite and is it asbestos containing?

What is Vermiculite

Vermiculite is the mineralogical name given to hydrated laminar magnesium-aluminum-iron silicate which resembles mica in appearance. All vermiculite ores contain a range of other minerals that were formed along with the vermiculite in the rock. Vermiculite ores from some sources have been found to contain asbestos minerals but asbestos is not intrinsic to vermiculite and only a few ore bodies have been found to contain more than tiny trace amounts.

Vermiculite mines are surface operations where ore is separated from other minerals, and then screened or classified into several basic particle sizes.

When subjected to heat, vermiculite has the unusual property of exfoliating or expanding into worm-like pieces (the name vermiculite is derived from the Latin 'vermiculare' - to breed worms). This characteristic of exfoliation, the basis for commercial use of the mineral, is the result of the mechanical separation of the layers by the rapid conversion of contained water to steam. During this exfoliation process, asbestos fibers, most commonly knowns as Tremolite or Actinolite, can potentially be released.

Vermiculite has been used in various industries for over 80 years. It is used in the construction, agricultural, horticultural and industrial markets. Examples of products that contain vermiculite include potting soil mixes, loose fill insulation, and packing material. It is often used as attic insulation in homes. In BC, we have seen two main kinds of Vermiculite used as insulation in buildings: a brown/gold colour type and a white/pearl coloured type.

If you want to have the vermiculite in your home sampled, we recommend that you hire a trained consultant or contractor to collect the sample.

When collecting a vermiculite sample for analysis, WorksafeBC recommends 4 gallons or a large sealed zip lok bag.

It is best to collect the “fines” or small dust particles that settle on the bottom of a vermiculite pile, and not just the top layer as this does not provide an accurate cross section of the material in question.

Vermiculite Float Suspension Method EPA 600/R-04-004 is conducted at our lab and the cost is $150 for a 2 day turnaround.

Due to the physical properties of vermiculite insulation, traditional asbestos analytical methods used for other bulk building materials do not provide the precision required for adequate quantification of asbestos fibres. Hence, WorksafeBC recommends the Vermiculite Research Method to be utilized for vermiculite insulation analysis as per EPA method 600/R-04/004. This method is more precise and accurate due to the extraction process

Vermiculite insulation containing ‘ANY %’ amount of asbestos is considered an Asbestos Containing Material and treated as a Hazardous Material. For all other building materials, WorkSafeBC’s definition of an Asbestos Containing Material (ACM), is 0.5%.

7. Where can I find out more information about asbestos in my home, business or property?

Worksafe Prevention Information Line: 1-888-621-7233 or in the lower mainland, (604) 276-3100.

Safe Work Practises for Handling Asbestos

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