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Dust masks won’t work for asbestos

On Behalf of | Apr 21, 2024 | Workplace Risks

Employees in some occupations still see exposure to asbestos. Even though this material is not used in the majority of building products today, it was used in the first half of the 20th century. Many of these buildings are still standing today and may still contain these asbestos-related materials.

For example, a company may be doing a renovation on an old home. Workers will begin to take tiles out of the bathroom, and they find that those tiles contain asbestos. Breaking the tiles up releases the asbestos into the air and puts them in significant danger. Asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, a type of cancer known for being highly aggressive and often fatal.

To combat this issue, the company’s owner may give the workers dust masks like you would find in a carpentry shop. They think that this can filter the air and keep the workers safe. But the problem is that the mask has the wrong rating and is incapable of keeping people from inhaling or swallowing asbestos particles.

The particles are microscopic

After all, asbestos particles that get trapped in a person‘s lungs can be microscopic. You can’t see them. So a worker may believe that the mask is filtering out the dust because their breathing seems easier, and that may be true. But the asbestos particles in that dust are just passing directly through the dust mask.

In order for the mask to work, it needs to have a 100 rating. The most common ratings are P-100, N-100 and R-100. The different letters refer to their effectiveness with certain oils, but the numerical rating indicates that it is sufficient for asbestos-related tasks.

Unfortunately, workers are often exposed to risks on the job. Those who suffer serious injuries or illnesses may need to look into their legal options.