How Does Asbestos Testing Work? Our New Asbestos Laboratory

Asbestos laboratory testing

We are proud to announce that Alpha Environmental is now a fully qualified asbestos testing, Melbourne-based environmental consultant. We have recently begun operating a NATA (National Association of Testing Authorities) accredited asbestos laboratory; where we complete asbestos identification, testing, monitoring, and sampling for residential and commercial buildings.

What is Asbestos

Asbestos is a silicate ‘mineral composed of flexible fibres that are resistant to heat, electricity and corrosion,’ it has historically been used in building construction due to the desired physical properties of the material. However, it has been phased out of buildings and is now banned in Victoria, and across Australia, due to the discovery of damaging and lethal health effects caused by the inhalation of the microscopic fibres. Many older buildings may still contain asbestos; therefore, it is important to complete a hazardous materials audit before damaging, demolishing, or renovating any older buildings. Fibres can be dislodged and dispersed during construction, causing detrimental health outcomes for those within proximity.

What asbestos services do we offer at Alpha Environmental?

Asbestos identification must be legally completed before any work requiring demolition or renovation of a building is completed. Homeowners, landlords and business owners have the legal responsibility to ensure this process is followed. At Alpha Environmental, we offer a variety of asbestos-related services such as a hazardous materials audit (divisions 5 & 6), sampling and testing services, management plans, monitoring and more. At our NATA Accredited asbestos laboratory, we can provide fibre count testing, synthetic mineral fibre counts and identification in homogeneous and non-homogenous samples such as but not limited to, cement sheeting, soil, dust, or ore.

How is asbestos being tested?

If you have concerns about asbestos on your site, a member of our qualified consulting team can complete a site audit, visiting your building of concern and collecting samples for rapid processing at the laboratory. Buildings built in Melbourne before 1990 are likely to have asbestos within the structure. However, due to the microscopic fibres, it can be impossible to tell with a naked eye and a NATA accredited asbestos laboratory is required to provide an accurate result. You can submit materials of concern via mail, courier, or hand delivery to our Collingwood office, along with a complete chain of custody. If you are handling the material yourself, please ensure all required safety precautions are undertaken and wear a P2 respirator, regular surgical masks are not suitable for protecting against asbestos fibres. Ensure that samples are properly packed and double bagged individually with plastic snap-lock bags prior to sending them to our lab for testing. Rather than trying to handle potentially hazardous materials on your own, you can contact our qualified team for assistance with a site audit if you have concerns.

What method is used to detect asbestos?

Asbestos laboratory identification is commonly completed using four main methods. Phase-contrast polarized light microscopy (PLM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD) and infra-red spectroscopy (IRS). At the Alpha Environmental lab, we utilise the PLM method due to its low cost and simplicity. Asbestos fibres can be identified based on their appearance with the aid of a microscope. The crystalline fibres can be seen bundling together but splitting at the ends. From testing, we can identify the type of asbestos found. Crocidolite (blue), Amosite (brown), and Chrysotile (white) are the common types found in bulk building materials throughout Australia. Our asbestos laboratory can also complete asbestos fibre counting using the phase contrast microscopy method. During asbestos air monitoring conducted by one of our team members, airborne asbestos fibres are collected by drawing air through a membrane filter with an air sampling pump. We analyse the air samples at the laboratory to determine the airborne concentration of asbestos at the site and can provide a risk assessment based on the results.


What is a division 5/ 6 asbestos audit?

Alpha Environmental is fully qualified to provide a division 5 and 6 asbestos audit. As mentioned, this audit will involve a site survey to identify and locate any materials containing asbestos, and the risk they pose to occupants. A division 5 asbestos audit will register any asbestos-containing materials for documentation and review so that any of the buildings’ visitors or inhabitants can limit exposure. If the condition of asbestos-containing materials deteriorates under periodic review, further action may be required to remove these materials from the site. Division 6 audits must occur prior to works, demolition, or renovation of a site to discover if any asbestos is present and the risk it poses to workers and residents. By conducting a division 6 audit, it can assure the controlled removal of asbestos-containing products and reduce the dispersal of fibres.

If your residential or commercial building was constructed or renovated before 1990, there is a likelihood of materials containing asbestos on the site. Are you living in a building and are concerned about exposure? Or planning on renovation or demolition? It is important to identify any hazardous materials and asbestos with a professional certified audit.

Our team at Alpha Environmental can provide thorough Division 5 and 6 asbestos audits, asbestos sampling, identification, testing and monitoring with our new NATA asbestos laboratory. If you have any concerns or queries, get in contact with us and we can provide you with more information.