Asbestos is a mineral fiber whose use was banned in many countries due to the risk of contracting serious diseases resulting from prolonged inhalation of its fibers. Glass fibers (such as mineral wool, refractory ceramic fibers, etc.) can cause damage to health and require special care when handling or disposing.

Mérieux NutriSciences - Amianto e fibre artificiali

Despite being banned for years in Europe, asbestos is still present in the workplace and on ships, trains, equipment, tunnels and pipelines of public and private water networks. Since it was widely used as building material between 1961 and 1990, millions of tons of asbestos are still present in buildings and pose a risk not only for workers in the construction and maintenance sectors, but potentially for anyone who occupies these buildings or just enters them.

In its opinion on the issue “Freeing the EU from asbestos”, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) states that the complete removal of all asbestos and all products containing it must be a priority for the European Union.

Mérieux NutriSciences offers its experience in the analysis of asbestos and glass fibers: over the years, effective techniques have been developed for the detection, quantification and typing of total asbestos, asbestos in powder and free fibers in each matrix and at any concentration.

Among the most frequently analyzed matrices there are:

  • Solid waste (such as asbestos or asbestos cement) construction waste, refractory material, artificial fibers
  • Materials with a suspected presence of asbestos
  • Track ballast.

Mérieux NutriSciences (approved by italian Ministry of Health) performs the analysis of asbestos on solid samples, airborne asbestos fibers and asbestos in water, through various analytical methods:

  • PCM= Optical Microscopy Contrast of Fase
  • PLM= Polarized light microscopy
  • SEM - EDS = Scanning Electron Microscopy with Microanalysis
  • HRD= X-Ray Diffractometry
  • FT-IR = Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy

If different types of fibres are present, analysis can be difficult, due to interference from different mineral species, even non-fibrous, with similar structural characteristics.

The remarkable resolving power of TEM (transmission electron microscope) combined with the ability to provide chemical and crystallographic data, allows to uniquely identify each individual mineral fiber and therefore to distinguish between asbestos fibers and different ones.              

In France and the United States it has been officially identified as the preferred technique for the identification and quantification of asbestos fibres in air samples in working environments.  Mérieux NutriSciences integrates the analytical capability of the asbestos laboratory with TEM:

  • in case of samples with fibres not detectable by other techniques
  • if  resolutions below 5nm are needed
  • for measurements in water, with particularly small fibres

In addition to the tests, Mérieux NutriSciences deals with the listing, mapping and characterization of industrial products made of materials containing asbestos in workplaces, buildings, plants, etc.; it also assesses the preservation status of products containing asbestos and the assessment of health risks through recognized algorithms. The assessment of the status of asbestos-concrete roofs is also carried out according to the applicable regulations.

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