Asbestos a toxic and hazardous dust
Asbestos is not a gas but a dust composed by very thin and extremely volatile fibers, 400 to 500 times thinner than hair. This substance can be found in pipes, corrugated plates, insulators and so on. Any intervention on these materials can cause dangerous dust release.
When inhaled, asbestos fibers settle out in lungs (pulmonary alveoli). Throughout and after chronic exposure, this dust can cause severe respiratory diseases. The IARC - International Agency for Research on Cancer - unveiled the causal link between asbestos exposure and larynx and lungs cancer risks. These diseases appear 10 to 20 years after chronic exposure to this substance.
Asbestos regulations and removal
National bans of asbestos are already in place in tens of countries worldwide. From the first council directives in 1983, the European Union regulated, through several articles, the risks related to asbestos exposure at work. Today, the use of asbestos in new products is banned. Marketing and use of products containing asbestos is also prohibited in the EU.
Concerning asbestos respiratory protection (for asbestos disposal), there are three dust levels. These levels were created to sort out the different means of protection to implement. Works equipment has to be adapted to asbestos dust level.
- Level 1: Exposure to asbestos below the occupational exposure limit* (OEL)
- Level 2: Exposure to asbestos above the OEL but below 60 times the OEL
- Level 3: Asbestos exposure up to 250 times the OEL or less
*Since 2015, current OEL related to asbestos exposure has been set to 10 fibers per liter - 10,000 F/m3 - instead of 100 earlier.
Asbestos respiratory protection
According to the three dust levels, there are three associated levels for asbestos respirators:
- Level 1 (low concentration): Negative pressure devices. Half masks like the Profile 40 or asbestos full face mask like the Sari or the Vision equipped with a P3 asbestos filter.
- Level 2 (intermediate concentration): powered air purifying respirator with a minimal flow of 160L/min like the Asbestos Proflow or the Phantom Vision equipped with one or several P3 cartridges.
- Level 3 (high concentration): Supplied air respirator with a compressor or compressed air cylinders (breathing air cart) like the Asbestos RAS