Project History of ALERT Asbestos Testing

Using laser light

The Early Asbestos DETECTION Research

Research into light scattering of airborne particles pioneered by University of Hertfordshire in the late-1990's showed that when a particle is illuminated with a beam of light, it will scatter the light in a pattern dependent on the particle's size, shape, and structure.

This scatter structure 'fingerprint' can be used to identify the particle shape, allowing fibres to be detected in the presence of other non-fibrous particles.

However, to discriminate between harmful asbestos fibres and other non-asbestos fibres required another step. The UH researchers developed this step by exploiting the unique magnetic properties of asbestos which cause it to be rotated in a magnetic field. They were able to measure this rotation in laboratory tests - the first step to a real-time warning device product.

Despite this success, the cost of implementing the technology and overcoming the remaining technical challenges was, at that time, too high to make it commercially viable. So it sat on a shelf.

Seventh Framework Programme - EU

From concept to creation

In 2008, Select Group initiated the project with the aim of creating a cost-effective, portable real-time airborne asbestos alert that would help save lives globally.

They led the creation of a consortium of partners representing trade associations, end-user SME's and research organisations and, in 2009, the ALERT Project Consortium's bid was submitted to the European Commission under the FP7 "Research for SME's" call. The bid was ranked 9th out of 3,500 entries and was awarded €1.8 million for the 3-year research project.

Alan Archer

In a recent interview, Alan Archer, MD of Select Group stated: 'Our challenge was to work with the University of Hertfordshire to turn their research into a practical and affordable instrument capable of alerting people (tradesmen initially) to the potential presence of this lethal airborne carcinogen.' Read the full news release An asbestos warning device that could save thousands of lives

The University of Hertfordshire, inventors of the asbestos detection technology, continues to lead the on-going R&D for the ALERT project, which is now run by the ALERT Consortium and funded under FP7 as a Research for SMEs 'Proof of Principal' project.

In 2013 the ALERT FP7 project came to a successful conclusion. Now Alert Technology Ltd, a spin off of The Select Group of Companies, and selected partners including the University of Hertfordshire are developing further working prototypes into pre-production units for robust field testing before commencing manufacture. R&D continues on industry-specific ALERT devices and refinements to the range.

New directions

Following the successful launch of ALERT, Alert Technology Ltd will continue to design and bring to market innovative asbestos testing products, including a PPE jacket with ALERT

as an integral part of the worker's protective clothing and a fixed perimeter unit that will be GPS enabled allowing remote monitoring of work-sites and other premises for asbestos.

To find out more about the ALERT Project and the Asbestos ALERT range, contact us today.

Seventh Framework Programme - EU

The ALERT Project was funded under the EU FP7 Programme. The Consortium Members are working to further develop the world's first method of testing for asbestos fibres in the air in real-time.

Due to the number of asbestos-related deaths each year across Europe and around the world, the ALERT Project Consortium aims to give tradespeople 

an effective and proactive means of personal asbestos protection.

By monitoring and testing the probability of asbestos fibres in the air in real-time, the ALERT asbestos testing devices immediately alert the user to the presence of deadly asbestos fibres in the air, helping to reduce the possible health risks from unintentional asbestos exposure.

The Alert Project Consortium members include:

Universities/ Research Facilities:

University of Hertfordshire - Centre for Atmospheric & Instrumentation Research (CAIR).

UOH logo and UK Flag

CAIR is concerned with fundamental research and instrumentation development relating to areas of particle characterisation and identification, aerosol transport, air quality and health, and atmospheric measurement. CAIR has developed many particle monitoring instruments that are now produced commercially as well as developing custom research instruments for organisations in the UK, Europe, and USA involved with particle detection and monitoring.

The 2008 UK Universities Research Assessment Exercise rated 15% of CAIR’s research as “world leading” and a further 40% as “internationally excellent”.

Main Contact: Professor Paul Kaye

Instituto de Biomecánica de Valencia (IBV – Biomechanics Institute of Valencia)

Instituto de Biomecánica de Valencia

The IBV is a technological centre that studies the behaviour of the human body and its interaction with products, environments and services. Founded in 1976, IBV specialise in Health in the Workplace which addresses businesses:

  • Offering services aiming to improve health among workers and to improve workplaces (prevention services, healthcare insurance companies, etc.)
  • Producing, distributing or marketing personal and collective health protection products and systems for workers
  • Producing, distributing or marketing machinery, tools and systems inherent to workplaces
  • And companies concerned about improving their workers’ health and adapting their workplaces to functional limitations

IBV are a biomechanical, ergonomic and health & safety specialist organisation who bring a wealth of experience in these areas that are crucial to the ALERT project.

Main Contact: Raquel Ruiz

UK Intelligent Systems Research Institute (Part of PERA)


The UK Intelligent Systems Research Institute (ISRI) is part of a network of not-for-profit research-led organisations that work to develop specialist research, ground-breaking technology solutions and project management expertise to European businesses in particular SMEs. ISRI have experience managing collaborative projects in the UK (DTI) and Europe (Framework Programs).

ISRI’s role in the ALERT project is as an Electronic and a Mechatronic specialist. They offer a wealth of knowledge in efficient implementation of electronic sub-systems and integrating them into complete systems.

Main Contact: Victoria Collins - Project Manager

Trade Associations:

Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineers (CIPHE)


Founded in 1906, the CIPHE is the professional body for the UK plumbing and heating industry. Membership is made up of individuals from a wide range of backgrounds such as consultants, specifiers, designers, public health engineers, lecturers, trainers, trainees and practitioners.

The CIPHE has a membership of around 10,000 including approximately 260 manufacturers and distributors, which support its work as Industrial Associates. Whilst the majority of members live in the UK, some 750 are resident in Hong Kong and a further 300 are resident in over 30 other countries.

CIPHE, are leaders in the field of training and dissemination of technical information and provide a range of services that include lobbying, advice on compliance with legislation, and consumer protection. CIPHE are the Alert Project Co-ordinators.

Main Contact: Danny Davis (Project Co-ordinator)

British Home Enhancement Trade Association (BHETA)


BHETA is the leading trade association for manufacturers, suppliers and distributors in the home enhancement market.

BHETA work hard for their members, providing support and advice on an extensive range of topics. It provides an influential lobbying mechanism for its members and their industry sectors through their links with government departments, institutions, trade bodies and agencies.

BHETA are the most influential independent UK trade association at the heart of the Home & Garden Market. Their membership consists of 300 UK based manufacturers and suppliers who have annual UK retail sales of £5 billion and exports of over £500 million.

As representatives of the DIY market BHETA’s knowledge and experience is vital in the development of the Alert project along with their support in communicating and raising awareness of the benefits the Alert early warning devices to their members.

Main Contact: Peter Stone

Thermal Insulation Contractors Association (TICA)


TICA are a trade association representing anyone in the industrial thermal insulation industry. TICA’s principal role is to manage the national agreement for the thermal insulation industry, being the conditions of employment of our member’s employees.

Within TICA is also ACAD, (Asbestos Control and Abatement Division) who represent specialists in asbestos removal and are dedicated to ensuring their members work to the exacting standards required by legislation in the Asbestos Industry.

In relation to the ALERT project TICA/ ACAD are representing FESI, the independent European Federation representing the insulation contracting sector. FESI promotes insulation as one of the best, and most cost effective and sustainable ways to save energy. FESI represents insulation associations from 16 European countries all of whose members are active in insulation for industry, commercial building sectors, ship insulation, soundproofing, fire protection etc.

Main Contact: Terry Slater

European Demolition Association (EDA)

European Demolition Association

The EDA was founded in 1978 and is the leading platform for European national demolition associations, demolition contractors and suppliers.

The EDA objectives are:

  • To promote and protect the economic and political interests of the industry
  • To create network between contractors, suppliers of equipment and adjacent industries
  • To work to establish common European standards in the demolition industry

The EDA has a strong focus on developments in Europe which are of interest to the demolition industry and likely to be affected by asbestos related issues.

Main Contact: Jose Blanco 

End Users:

AS Epler & Lorenz

AS Epler & Lorenz

A private share company, established in Estonia in 1991, AS Epler & Lorenz’s primary industry is Industrial Waste. Their main business activities bring them face to face with the threats of asbestos exposure daily and include such jobs as: the collection and burning of hazardous waste; Production of alternative fuel; Environmental cleaning works and cleaning organic waste.

AS Epler & Lorenz own an industrial incineration plant with a 2000 tonnes capacity/ yr and are regulated by EU Directive 2000/76/EEC. Asbestos presents a significant danger to plant employees as much of the waste handled for incineration could be contaminated with it, as such they are ideally placed as an end user to test the ALERT warning device and subsequently implement ALERT once complete.

Main Contact: Juri Epler

I.D.E.A. Environmental Technologies Ltd.


Established in 1992  I.D.E.A. specialise in the remediation of contaminated sites and cleaning and relining of fuel tanks. Based in Italy, they promote environmental protection and reducing hazardous environmental risks.

Committed to supporting sustainable development I.D.E.A. are dedicated in their search for the most innovative solutions and through the use of the best technology available they ensure their remediation work is completed with the utmost safety protecting the environment and human safety.

I.D.E.A’s services put them in contact with hazardous goods daily including asbestos, their experience and knowledge of working with dangerous materials makes them an ideal working partner the for Alert project. I.D.E.A will field test the Alert warning devices to feedback on the product design, usability and efficiency.

Main contact:  Francesco Favata

Businesses (SMEs):

Select Group

Select Group

Initiator of the Alert Project, The Select Group of Companies Ltd is responsible for Exploitation and Commercialization of the Alert early warning device. A product design, development and distribution company, Select have been introducing and launching innovative new products into the construction sector since the late 1980s.

Select's experience in product development, marketing and distribution along with decades of contacts make them ideally placed to take the Alert warning device from concept to customer.

Main Contact: Alan Archer, MD



Based in Spain, Kepar are experts in the field of electronic manufacturing. An Electronic Manufacturing Service, Kepar have been developing comprehensive electronic solutions, from idea to manufacture for internationally based clients for over 15 years.

Dedicated to technological innovation Kepar bring experience and the highest standards of electronic manufacturing to the Alert project.

Main Contact: Luis Oriol

Testing Asbestos - Research & Development

The University of Hertfordshire, inventors of the asbestos detection technology, continue to lead the on-going R&D for the ALERT project and to be involved in the development of future models of the Alert Detectors for specific user applications.

The ALERT warning device provides instant testing for airborne asbestos in the atmosphere. Its light-weight construction makes ALERT simple and easy to deploy in the workplace.

  • The ALERT PRO 1000 is approximately 33cm long
  • It captures data on up to 600 particles per second
  • Made for heavy-duty workplace use
  • Tests for presence of asbestos and sounds an increasing alarm when levels of asbestos fibres are detected in the air

Using lasers to test for asbestos

ALERT works by using a laser to analyse the particles present in the air. When a particle is illuminated by the laser beam, the resulting light pattern acts as a 'fingerprint' that helps identify the particle as a fibre or not. Once a fibre has been detected, a magnetic field is used to determine whether the fibre is asbestos by the amount of rotation of the fibre in the field. This process is repeated for up to 600 particles per second.

As the number of individual fibres that ALERT recognises as asbestos increases, so does the confidence of the warning the ALERT monitor gives. Typically a 95% confidence can be reached with as few as 10 – 20 fibre detections.

The ALERT asbestos testing device is able to recognise many of the most common forms of asbestos such as crocidolite (blue) asbestos.

To find out more about the ALERT Project Consortium or on the ALERT asbestos testing device, please contact us.

British Lung Foundation


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