People often ask us about asbestos-rated respirators. Everyone knows airborne asbestos, even in small quantities, is scary stuff. It can be very damaging to the lungs and is known to cause cancer. If you have work where you suspect or know for sure asbestos is present, you need to be extremely vigilant about using the proper safety equipment and making sure it is working perfectly.
Because of the serious nature of asbestos removal, OSHA and other work safety standard agencies have extensive regulations surrounding its handling. Liability issues may be at least part of the reason why equipment manufacturers like Moldex and 3M, do not rate equipment specifically as "asbestos-rated" or even as an "asbestos respirator."
Employers with workers in asbestos-laden environments have a long list of requirements for compliance. The exposure limits are extremely small. OSHA regulations, for example, require no employee be exposed to an airborne concentration of asbestos in excess of 0.1 f/cc (fiber per cubic centimeter) over an 8-hour period.
That being said, we know because of the cost of asbestos removal private parties are attempting to remove asbestos from their homes or businesses themselves. While we don't condone this high-risk activity, we can give an educated opinion on what the best respirators and filters for this type of work would be.
The important aspects of lung protection are fit and filter. Masks like the 3M 6000 Half Facepiece mask or the Moldex 7000 Half Mask are great options for projects of a relatively short duration. For greater comfort over the course of longer-term projects, the soft silicon of the 3M 7500 Half Facepiece is a very good option.
Eye protection is also necessary for asbestos work. Full-face masks can take care of both lung and eye protection for asbestos work. 3M makes the 6000 Full Facepiece Respirator, and we offer a kit with the P100 filters which is also used as a mold remediation kit. A Moldex asbestos respirator kit includes the Moldex 9000 Full Face Mask with P100 filters coupled with multi-gas organic vapor cartridges for wide-ranging protection.
Any filters used for protection in atmospheres with asbestos need to be rated P100. Also called HEPA filters, the P100 is a NIOSH rating. NIOSH is the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. The P100 respirator filters block at least 99.97% of airborne particles and are strongly resistant to oil. While disposable P100 filters do exist, we don't feel the face seal is typically as good as those mentioned above.
Respirators, especially when used in extremely dangerous work environments, must fit correctly. The only way to make sure a respirator is properly fitted is to do a fit test. We know people who aren't required by OSHA regulations seldom do. But a proper seal to the face is critical for asbestos safety. This also means no face hair. People often think a light beard or goatee is acceptable and doesn't affect the seal. It does. If a beard is indispensable, please consider a supplied air system such as the 3M PAPR system.
If you are looking for a reliable respirator approved for lead abatement, against metal fumes, welding fumes, radioactive materials, and non-oil containing mists, the 8233 n100 mask is a perfect choice for you. If you have questions about respirator safety, please call us before and not after your first entry into an area that potentially will expose your lungs to hazardous materials.
A respirator mask works only as good as it fits. It won’t protect you from hazards if it doesn’t fit your face properly.