New Asbestos Testing Method For Vermiculite Accurate And Cost-Effective

The New York State Department of Health recently updated its regulations for identifying and quantifying asbestos in sprayed-on fireproofing containing vermiculite (SOF-V). The department now requires that SOF-V material be assumed asbestos-containing or tested for asbestos with a newly released method (Item 198.8).

Analyzing asbestos in vermiculite insulation has long been a complicated and debated issue. Much of the world’s supply of vermiculite that has been mined over the years (circa 1920 through 1990) came from a mine in Libby, Mont., and this vermiculite ore was contaminated with low amounts of asbestos (namely tremolite, an amphibole asbestos, and sometimes chrysotile, serpentine asbestos).

Because traditional polarized light microscopy (PLM) asbestos testing methods are not always considered reliable for confirming that the vermiculite contains no asbestos contamination, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) recommends that vermiculite-containing materials be assumed contaminated with asbestos and treated as an asbestos-containing material (ACM).

However, this new PLM method can definitively separate and identify the asbestos and the vermiculite within the sample. Item 198.8 is also approved to generate a non-ACM result without the disclaimer required previously.

When performed by a laboratory certified for 198.8 under New York’s Environmental Laboratory Approval Program (ELAP), 198.8 is accurate and cost-effective. While the 2-tier PLM method requires a larger amount of sample material (a minimum of 10 grams), only samples testing negative for asbestos in Tier 1 proceed to the costlier Tier 2.  Currently, this method is approved ONLY by the State of New York for SOF-V. The US EPA or other states have not approved or rejected the method.

More about vermiculite:

Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral that has been mined for many years and has many uses. It has a unique property that causes it to expand when heated into a very lightweight material, somewhat similar to Styrofoam™. Due to its lightweight and heat resistant properties, some of its most widespread uses have been as “blow-in” or spray-applied insulation and fireproofing in buildings.

For information on asbestos sampling of SOF-V, contact one of PSI’s industrial hygiene offices, an asbestos Principal Consultant or the IH services Principal-in-Charge. For analysis information, contact PSI’s knowledgeable staff at the PSI National IH Laboratory, (412) 922-4000, with questions and for pricing on this test method, as well as our other asbestos, lead-paint, and mold analytical services.

PSI employs approximately 2000 scientists, engineers and technicians nationwide to serve our customers testing and consulting needs since 1881. PSI’s laboratory is ISO/IEC 17025 compliant and is accredited by NVLAP (Lab Code 101350), NYELAP (Lab Code 10930), AIHA LLC (ID #10373), and many states for asbestos analysis via PLM, phase contract microscopy (PCM), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM).