How to choose the best laboratory for your asbestos analysis

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Courtesy of EMLab P&K

Trustworthy, Trained, and Truthful are the 3T's that greatly influence one's decision while choosing a good asbestos lab - Is the data you are receiving accurate and can you TRUST the data being provided? Is an educated, experienced, TRAINED analyst analyzing your samples? Is the lab always TRUTHFUL and not hide any errors that might have occurred during the process? One can be assured of making decisions with a peace of mind based on the lab results, if these questions have been asked before choosing the lab of choice, for a good lab can make all the difference between winning and losing lawsuits. With this as a prelude let's try to explore in detail the answer to the question: How to choose a good asbestos lab?

Let's start off by placing on the table all the factors that can influence the decision of selecting a laboratory:

• Reputation/Reliability
• Quality of Analysis
• Customer Service
• Turnaround Time
• Price
• Local Presence

Most of us would like an asbestos lab that can provide all of these and if a choice has to be made then one would want a lab with high quality analyses, good service, fast turnaround time, and reasonable prices. Even though these are all important factors that rightly influence the decision one should remember that of all these, the two most important factors that cannot and should not be negotiated are the Reliability and Quality.

What is Reliability?
It is your trust in the lab. In a broader sense it means 'your peace of mind.' How confident are you that your samples were handled correctly, reported properly, and that the data provided is accurate. How confident are you that you will get your data on time when you have requested for a rush service. Will the lab call you proactively to resolve issues like samples damaged in shipping, missing samples, and unusual results? Are they available and knowledgeable to answer your questions? Does the lab have a good sample tracking system and processes in place that are rigorous enough to undergo legal scrutiny in a confrontational lawsuit?

What is Quality?
A correct analysis, i.e. 'high quality' analysis, can be the difference between making a correct decision or making an incorrect decision that puts people's health at risk on one hand or causing unnecessary expenditures on the other. How can you measure quality? Start by asking your asbestos lab questions like:
• Do they have a rigorous quality assurance system in place?
• Are the quality assurance protocols strictly being followed?
• Does the lab have a clear written procedure for every aspect of the work being conducted in the lab?
• Does the lab participate in the proficiency testing rounds and if so, can you have a copy of their results and scores?
• Does the lab employ analysts with higher levels of education? Do the analysts receive proper training?

The answer to these questions is the tool for measuring the quality of a lab. To provide a good quality of analysis, the lab must employ analysts with experience, sound knowledge, and college degrees who can use their knowledge to answer the questions you are asking. The analysts should have also undergone a formalized, documented training with a qualified expert. For all asbestos analysis, proper training is essential. Proper training in the use of stereo and polarized light microscopes, a thorough knowledge in dispersion staining and polarized light microscopy (PLM), and familiarity in the morphology and crystal characteristics of asbestos and other fibers is important. The quality systems and the training of the analysts are important in analyzing and reporting asbestos samples. Without these, the data provided may be factually incorrect and, even if correct, may not hold up in court.

Finally, one must always remember that selecting a good asbestos lab for analyzing your samples is one of the important decisions that you make to provide service in your field of business. A good decision here can make all the difference between winning or losing a lawsuit and ultimately may play an important role in letting you conduct your work with peace of mind.

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