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Portable asbestos detector under development

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used in numerous industrial and household uses for decades. It was used because of its fireproofing and insulating characteristics and became embedded in the very fabric, and hundreds other places in our homes and our daily lives. Asbestos was used to manufacture floor and ceiling tiles, shingles, pipe insulation, wrapping heating and cooling ducts and electrical insulation. It was even used in potholders and tea cozies.

Unfortunately, asbestos has one truly unpleasant side effect. When the fibers become airborne, they can be inhaled into the lungs. There they lodge and irritate the lung tissue, eventually leading to fibrosis and potential migration to the plural. Long term exposure to the fibers and cause mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that has a very high mortality rate.

The problem today is that with asbestos in practically every building that was constructed prior to 1990. When remodeling or demolition occurs, it is critical the asbestos not be disturbed and the fibers become aerosolized. Because of this, any asbestos abatement must comply with strict regulations controlling air quality.

Testing to determine if asbestos has been release is time consuming and complex. A recent report has been release disclosing the possibility of a portable device that allows real time detection of asbestos.

The device uses laser light and magnetic properties to discern the presence of asbestos. Having a portable device that could be rapidly used to find asbestos on location would be of great help during asbestos. The prototype is being tested operationally and it if proves successful, could move into production.

Such a device would make asbestos abatement safer by allowing constant real time monitoring as the work proceeded, enabling workers to know the actual threat posed by the site. 

Source: Gizmag.com, "Portable device detects potentially-lethal asbestos fibers in real time," Ben Coxworth, May 2, 2013

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