Dear Consumer Ed:

Are there government labs where a person can bring a sample to have it tested for asbestos, mildew and mold?

Consumer Ed Says:

No, but various government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have specific recommendations for how and whether to test samples for asbestos, mildew, and mold.

Asbestos

If you would like to test for asbestos, the EPA recommends using an accredited laboratory in your area. After Congress enacted the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986, the National Institute of Standards and Technology developed a voluntary accreditation program for two types of laboratory testing: the Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) Test Method, a test to determine the asbestos content in materials; and the Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) Test Method, for determining the presence and amount of asbestos in air samples. To find an accredited lab in Georgia, visit http://ts.nist.gov/standards/scopes/plmtm.htm (PLM Test Method) and http://ts.nist.gov/standards/scopes/temtm.htm (TEM Test Method). For more information about asbestos, visit http://www2.epa.gov/asbestos.

If you would like to talk with a government official about your potential asbestos problem, you should contact Georgia's state asbestos consultant, Mindy Crean, by calling (404) 363-7043 or by e-mailing her at mindy.crean@dnr.state.ga.us.

Mold and Mildew

The CDC generally discourages people from testing any mold found in their home. If mold is touched or smelled, there's a potential health risk; therefore, if you believe you have mold, no matter what type, you should arrange for its removal. Reliable sampling for mold can be expensive, and standards for judging what is and what is not an acceptable or tolerable quantity of mold have not been established. If you do decide to pay for environmental sampling for molds, before the work starts, you should ask the consultants who will do the work to establish criteria for interpreting the test results. The results of samples taken in your unique situation cannot be interpreted without physical inspection of the contaminated area, or without considering the building's characteristics and the factors that led to the present condition.

For more information, you can go to the CDC's website, or to the Environmental Protection Agency's website: www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.html. To locate a reliable mold testing/remediation company, you can visit the Better Business Bureau's site at www.bbb.org.


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