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The purpose of asbestos testing

Many old homes, offices and schools in Louisville still contain asbestos, a fibrous mineral that's known to cause lung cancer. Asbestos can be in appliances, paint, floor tiles and heating and plumbing ducts. It begins to cause problems when something disturbs it; for example, during a painting or remodeling project.

Those who inhale the mineral may not develop serious health problems until several years down the line. The sooner it is eliminated, however, the better, and it all starts with asbestos testing. Accredited labs can submit a sample of an object suspected of carrying asbestos to one of three kinds of tests -- transmission electron microscopy, polarized light microscopy or phase contrast microscopy.

The first two distinguish between asbestos and non-asbestos materials. TEM uses magnification and chemical and mineral tools while PLM, true to its name, uses polarized light. PCM magnifies but cannot tell apart the materials. However, it is the least expensive test while TEM is the most expensive.

Any asbestos found on a property should be removed by a qualified company. Asbestos exposure leads to not only lung cancer but also asbestosis and mesothelioma. As the fibers lodge in the lungs, they can cause difficulty breathing, a decrease in appetite, chest pains, a persistent cough and other symptoms.

Exposure to asbestos on the job is all too common. Fortunately, this type of injury is covered under workers' compensation law, so victims can file a claim in the effort to be covered for medical expenses, disability leave and a portion of their lost wages. Negligence does not need to be established. In return for these benefits, though, employees will waive their right to sue their employer in the future for the same condition. It's a good idea to hire a lawyer, especially since claims can be denied.

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