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As an analytical testing laboratory, we specialize in the analysis of hazardous building materials
such as Asbestos, Lead, Mold as well as test indoor air quality.

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

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Bulk Sample Asbestos Identification
Airborne Asbestos Dust Fiber Counting
Gravimetric 400 and 1000 Point Count for Bulk Asbestos
Vermiculite Float Suspension Method
Lead Detection in Paints and Coatings
Mold and Bacteria Analysis
Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM)

Bulk Sample Asbestos Identification

Blown Insulation

Brick Mortar

Ceiling Tile

Drywall Joint Compound

Linoleum or Vinylsheet

Paper Tape


Exterior Stucco

Texture Coat

Vermiculite & Blown Insulation

Window Putty

Vinyl Floor Tile

Bulk Asbestos Identification using Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) in accordance to EPA/600/R-93/116 and EPA600/M4-82-020.

Examination of samples for asbestos content was conducted in accordance to EPA/600/R-93/116 or EPA/600/M4-82-020 methodologies using polarized light microscopy (PLM). This method is the most widely used method for estimating asbestos in bulk building materials and works well for most sample types.

Multiple layers of samples are analyzed and reported separately. All analysts are derived from calibrated visual estimate and measured in weight percent unless otherwise noted. Please note that the EPA test method has limitation for quantifying the percentage of samples with low asbestos concentration.

Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) would be encouraged for customers to obtain accurate results in these situations.

Using Stereoscopic Evaluation

All samples are analyzed first through stereo binocular examination. By magnifying a bulk sample at up to 40x, the analyst is able to evaluate and extract suspicious fibres that possess the morphological characteristics of asbestos. From there, fibres are mounted on a slide with a refractive index oil and then analyzed with the Polarized Light Microscope (PLM).

Using Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM)

Polarized light microscopy (PLM) analysis is the most commonly accepted technique for analysing bulk samples for asbestos. Identification of asbestos is based on the determination of optical properties displayed when the sample is treated with various dispersion staining liquids. Identification is further substantiated by fibre morphology and the effect of polarized light on the fibres. PLM analysis is specific to fibrous materials and allows for the determination of:

  • Asbestos Type: There are six (6) types (Chrysotile, Amosite, Actinolite, Tremolite, Crocidolite Anthophylite);
  • Quantification: % amount of asbestos and non-asbestos fibers in the sample quantified by Calibrated Visual Estimate of the analyst;
  • Fiber Colour under microscopic evaluation;
  • None Detected : Means No Asbestos Present in sample

Airborne Asbestos Fiber Counting using Phase Contrast Microscopy (PCM) in accordance to NIOSH 7400

Enlarged Asbestos Fibers

In testing for asbestos, air is drawn through a filter. This filter is usually a part of a 25-mm cassette that can take specific sampling times. The sampling time is chosen to produce a fiber density of between 100 to 1,300 fibers/mm2; this rate is usually 0.5 to 16.0 liters/minute. The filter is then analyzed by phase contrast microscopy (PCM) or transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Fibre counting analysis is conducted in accordance to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Method #7400.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) method 7400

The analysis includes testing of air sample for asbestos and other fibers by PCM. It is used primarily for estimating asbestos concentrations in air. The method does not differentiate between asbestos and other fibers and can also be used to estimate the airborne concentration of other, non-asbestos materials such as fibrous glass. Fibre less than 0.25 microns in diameter will not be detected with this method.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) method 7402

NIOSH 7402 is fibre specific and can be utilized to complement the phase contrast microscopy method 7400. It can determine the fraction of asbestos fibres among all optically visible fibres within a given sample. The results can be used to calculate a modified PCM fibre count.

PCM works well for testing airborne fibers because it is relatively inexpensive and quick. However, PCM does not differentiate between asbestos and other fibers. All fibers that meet the counting criteria are counted. Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) is encouraged for customers to obtain more accurate results where precise determination of airborne asbestos fiber is needed.

Quantification Methods

Gravimetric 400 and 1000 Point Count for Bulk Asbestos

Gravimetric point counting is a technique that enhances quantification of asbestos in bulk building materials.

The sample is first dried and then weighed. It is then subjected to high temperature in an ashing furnace for a period of approximately 6 hours. During this process organic material is oxidized (burned). After cooling the sample is re-weighed and the weight loss recorded.

Further treatment with dilute hydrochloric acid may be used to remove carbonates and other acid soluble substances in the sample. The remaining material is then washed with plain water, dried and weighed. This weight loss is also recorded. The residue is now examined and PLM point counting is performed to determine the concentration of asbestos fibers in the residue. Because we know the weight of the residue we can calculate the concentration of asbestos in the original sample.

Gravimetric point count improves the ability to detect asbestos fibers in the sample and also improves the quantification. This is so because the residue is very often granular particulates rather than a wide variety of materials with vastly different density and mass thereby making more representative slides and improving point counting statistics.

Revisions to the Asbestos NESHAP were promulgated on November 20, 1990 and included a requirement to perform point counting to quantify asbestos in samples where the asbestos content is below ten percent. This requirement has been the subject of many questions, and the attached guidance document has been developed to clarify when point counting is required.

Point counting does not apply to the EPA vermiculite method.

Vermiculite Float Suspension in accordance to method EPA600/ R-04/004

The visual identification can be confirmed by an accredited asbestos laboratory. It is extremely important to note that the overall percentages of asbestos in the bulk vermiculite are very low such as 1%, or possibly below existing legal limits for asbestos.

Nonetheless, the airborne concentrations can be very high when the material is disturbed, due to the very fine and loose nature of the asbestos. Therefore EPA recommends that all loose-fill insulation visually identified as vermiculite, and installed prior to 1990, be treated with asbestos precautions.

In BC, any presence of any quantitation of asbestos in Vermiculite is considered an Asbestos Containing Materials and is an exception to the >0.5% ACM regulation that applies to all other building materials.

Lead Detection in Paints and Coatings X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) Analysis.

Until the 1980s, lead was used in paint because it increased durability, made colours more vibrant, and helped paint dry faster. Lead-containing paints and coatings do not present a hazard if they are left intact. The health risk occurs when the paint chips, peels or is otherwise damaged. When lead dust is released into the air, inhalation and ingestion, particularly to children, can be deadly. The XRF Analyzer measures the amount of lead in paint and other surface coating by exposing a painted or coated surface to X-rays or gamma radiation, which then causes any lead present to emit energy with a certain frequency. The limit of detection is 0.3 g/cm (0.0003 mg/cm). WorksafeBC suggests that removal of lead-containing paint which equals or exceeds 600 mg/kg (0.06% wt. or ~0.04 mg/cm2) requires safe work procedure worker protection.

Lead air testing and dust wipes is also an available test method at our laboratory.

Mold and Bacteria Analysis

Mold and Bacteria Analysis is conducted using Direct Microscopic Examination in accordance to the SOP-MBL-M-2 using X400, X600, or X1000 magnification as necessary. Culture and quantification also available.

Aspergillus species is a common form of mold found in homes

Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM)

The Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) operates on the same basic principles as the light microscope but uses electrons instead of light. What you can see with a light microscope is limited by the wavelength of light. TEM uses electrons as a "light source" and their much lower wave length makes it possible to get a resolution a thousand times better than with a light microscope.

Asbestos magnification at 10,000x to 20,000x

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