New Asbestos-Detecting Microscope Could Improve Abatement

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Posted on Apr 14, 2018

Asbestos is not as widely used in the United States as it was decades ago. However, it still exists in many of our buildings, and it is known to cause a serious form of cancer known as mesothelioma and other health risks.

Currently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends testing your home for asbestos only if part of your home is damaged or if you are planning a renovation, because asbestos that is undisturbed is unlikely to cause a health problem. Different regulations apply to testing for asbestos in schools.

Wherever you test for asbestos, however, the testing protocol commonly requires that samples of materials be taken from the property by a trained and accredited asbestos inspector. Those samples are then analyzed in a lab. Typically, the samples will be analyzed using polarized light microscopy (PLM) or transmission electron microscopy (TLM). While these methods are considered reliable, different labs can produce different results due to human error.

Marvin the Microscope Provides Another Asbestos Testing Option

Jordan Gruber, an Australian engineer, has created Marvin the Microscope to detect asbestos in buildings and to monitor for asbestos during abatement or renovation.

Marvin is a microscope that can be used to detect asbestos very quickly. Marvin takes several hundred pictures of an air filter sample in less than a minute. These pictures are then uploaded to cloud-based software that analyzes them for the presence of asbestos. This eliminates the need to schedule a certified asbestos inspector to come to the site, to collect the materials, and to submit them to a lab for testing.

It is estimated that Marvin can detect asbestos in about two minutes, making it much faster than current asbestos detection methods. Additionally, Marvin eliminates some of the health risks for asbestos inspectors because they do not need to handle the materials directly, and Marvin can be used to monitor for asbestos during an abatement or renovation project.

It is expected that Marvin the Microscope will become commercially available for asbestos detection in 2018.