Abstract

Asbestos may be present in soil as a natural occurrence or by contamination from asbestos-containing building materials, illegal dumping of asbestos, or other human activities. When trying to properly assess asbestos and other mineral fiber content in a sample by microscopy, soil is a problem matrix in all respects. Even defining the sample to be collected requires forethought and can greatly influence the final analytical result. Determining the sampling approach as well as the best sample preparation and analysis techniques are critical to obtaining accurate results in a metric that is useful to the end user. This article provides an overview of the various approaches that can be applied to assist those involved with asbestos in soil projects. There are many analytical techniques that can be applied for the determination of asbestos content in soil, including visual observation in the field, stereomicroscopy, polarized light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction, and others. All of these techniques have their own inherent strengths and weaknesses. Fortunately all of the analysis options are complementary, and using multiple techniques can help to better characterize a sampling site and provide a more comprehensive assessment. Time and cost constraints will typically play a role in determining the final sampling and analysis plan.

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