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Asbestos particles examined by microscope: photographs provided on this page illustrate what asbestos fibers or fragments may look like under the polarized light microscope.
In this article we provide photographs and descriptive text of asbestos insulation and other asbestos-containing products
to permit identification of definite, probable, or possible asbestos materials in buildings. This document assists forensic investigators, laboratories, building buyers, owners or inspectors who need to identify asbestos materials (or probable-asbestos) in buildings by simple
visual inspection and confirmed by asbestos test lab or forensic microscopy lab examination.
Asbestos under the microscope: Micro photographs of Asbestos
While an expert lab test using polarized light microscopy may be needed to identify the specific type of
asbestos fiber, or to identify the presence of asbestos in air or dust samples, many asbestos-containing building products
not only are obvious and easy to recognize, but since there were not other look-alike products that were not asbestos, a visual identification of this material can be virtually a certainty in many cases.
Our photo (left) illustrates pure tremolite asbestos used as fireproofing on a building ceiling in New York. Our forensic lab photographs of tremolite asbestos (below) were collected from that ceiling. More about this building can be read
at ASBESTOS FIREPROOFING SPRAY-On Coatings.
see ASBESTOS DUCTS, HVAC a field identification guide to
visual detection of asbestos in and on heating and cooling system ducts and flue vents,
Here are two photographs showing what a sample of asbestos ceiling fireproofing (tremolite asbestos) looks like in
our lab microscope using polarized light microscopy (PLM).
in the first photo you see long very thin multi-fibrous filaments - asbestiform tremolite.
Each filament is less than one micron in diameter. In the second photograph
you'll observe non-fibrous granular particles, many less than one micron in diameter as well -
non-asbestiform tremolite. [McCrone]
This asbestos sample was collected from slabs of nearly pure tremolite asbestos which was
as FIREPROOFING ASBESTOS SPRAY-ON in
a commercial building.
McCrone illustrated that tremolite asbestos (as well as some other forms of asbestos) occur in both fibrous and non-fibrous form. Comparing the photo at below left (tremolite in fibrous form) by McCrone to ours (above right) that shows fewer small non-fibrous particles, but a clear bundle of ultra-fine sub-micron (in width) fibers.
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Questions & answers or comments about how asbestos is identified in various materials, asbestos identification microscopy, & what asbestos looks like microscopically.
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June 1997 - Window Putty - OSHA case cites contractor for asbestos exposure during removal of window putty http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=1091
Asbestos Identification and Testing References
Asbestos Identification, Walter C.McCrone, McCrone Research Institute, Chicago, IL.1987 ISBN 0-904962-11-3. Dr. McCrone literally "wrote the book" on asbestos identification procedures which formed
the basis for current work by asbestos identification laboratories.
Stanton, .F., et al., National Bureau of Standards Special Publication 506: 143-151
Pott, F., Staub-Reinhalf Luft 38, 486-490 (1978) cited by McCrone
Asbestos in Your Home U.S. EPA, Exposure Evaluation Division, Office of Toxic Substances, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington,D.C. 20460
Asbestos products and their history and use in various building materials such as asphalt and vinyl flooring includes discussion which draws on Asbestos, Its Industrial Applications, D.V. Rosato, engineering consultant, Newton, MA, Reinhold Publishing, 1959 Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 59-12535 (out of print, text and images available at InspectAPedia.com).
"Handling Asbestos-Containing roofing material - an update", Carl Good, NRCA Associate Executive Director, Professional Roofing, February 1992, p. 38-43
EPA Guidance for Controlling Asbestos-Containing Materials in buildings, NIAST, National Institute on Abatement Sciences & Technology, [republishing EPA public documents] 1985 ed., Exposure Evaluation Division, Office of Toxic Substances, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington,D.C. 20460
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Or choose the The Home Reference eBook for PCs, Macs, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or Android Smart Phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAEHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.