Asbestos a toxic and hazardous dust
Asbestos is not a gas but a dust made up of tiny and extremely volatile filaments, on average 400 to 500 times thinner than human hair and very volatile. It can be in pipes, corrugated sheets, binders, insulation, lagging, flock, etc. Any work performed on these materials is likely to emit highly-fine hazardous substances.
Once inhaled, the fire-resistant fibers are deposited deep in the lungs (pulmonary alveoli). In the event of chronic exposure, this dust can cause severe respiratory diseases. The causality between exposure to asbestos and laryngeal or lung cancer risks has been confirmed by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer). These diseases appear between 10 and 20 years after chronic exposure to the substance.
The European Union now estimates that nearly 80% of occupational cancers are related to asbestos. In 2019, 70,000 people died due to exposure to this toxin.
Asbestos regulations and removal
The decree from March 7, 2013, refers to the choice, maintenance, and verification of PPE used during operations involving a risk of exposure for employees and self-employed workers. Published in the Journal Officiel of March 14, 2013, it stipulates the provision by employers of breathing apparatus protecting against asbestos.
In the safety field, when working with this fiber (asbestos removal work), the three categories of dust on worksites must be taken into account, implying the graduation of the means to be applied to choose the right product.
- Level 1: Exposure to asbestos below the occupational exposure limit value* (OELV)
- Level 2: Exposure to asbestos above the OELV and below 60 times the OELV
- Level 3: Asbestos exposure less than or equal to 250 times the OELV
The current VLEP for asbestos exposure has been reduced from 100 to 10 fibers per liter since July 1, 2015.
The European Commission wishes to extend the standard set by France throughout the EU. Intending to renovate nearly 3 million buildings by 2030, many professionals are likely to encounter health risks. The new standards will ensure equal protection in all countries
Asbestos respiratory protection
Three categories of specialized respiratory protection products are available, depending on the level of particulate matter present in the air (i.e., the degree of hazard):
- Level 1 (lowest): Gas mask respirators or negative-pressure masks. Half-mask, such as the Profile 40, or full-mask, such as the Sari or Vision, fitted with a P3 asbestos filter (filter against fine dust, aerosols, viruses, or bacteria)
- Level 2 (intermediate): Powered air purifying mask with a minimum flow rate of 160 l/min, such as the Proflow 2SC Asbestos, fitted with one or more P3 filters. Lightweight and compact, it offers optimum comfort and is perfectly suitable for long-duration asbestos removal operations
- Level 3 (high concentration): Supplied air respirator system (mask with valve) from a compressed air network or compressed air cylinders (breathing air cart) like the RAS Asbestos. It can be associated with a connection system for a breathing air supply hose and a connection device for an RD40 filter cartridge
A wide range of safety systems is available, depending on the degree of dust and the risk analysis of the worksites due to this fiber. We can find simple masks (such as ffp dust masks) for the lowest levels, through powered air purifying masks, to air-supply systems for the highest levels.
Numerous accessories, such as a highly leakproof valve or a clothing complement, enhance the performance of these respirators.
Asbestos protective clothing
Chemical protective suits are waterproof garments avoiding any contact between skin and particles. Disposable coveralls are recommended to prevent dust from spreading to other clothes. A single-use Type 5 suit, manufactured to standard EN 13982-1, is suitable for protection against airborne asbestos dust. Hooded garments closing at the neck, ankles, and wrists are preferred. As asbestos removal works often last a very long time, you should select a material offering good breathability and ease of movement.
Depending on the type of application, you can opt for either a single garment or a kit that includes all the accessories you need to protect yourself from this strong fiber. Indeed, using waterproof gloves, goggles, suitable footwear (safety boots or disposable overshoes), or a specialized helmet for specific worksites may prove indispensable. That is the perfect complement to a P3 or FFP3 filter mask.
Some professionals also use Alfa bags, specially designed for transporting minute asbestos dust, which comply with standards authorizing them to remove asbestos waste.
Which industries are most exposed?
The construction sector is the most exposed to asbestos. Whether it concerns homes or offices, professionals involved in asbestos removal need that kind of equipment.
Waste management workers are the second most exposed sector.
Some sectors have secondary contact with asbestos:
- Plumbers, electricians, heating engineers, air-conditioners
- Mechanics for light and heavy vehicles
- Kitchen fitters
All companies working with asbestos-containing materials must install a decontamination SAS to remove all fiber traces from their clothing.
Our range of asbestos respiratory protection equipment
A whole range of asbestos respiratory protection equipment based on dust levels: from the classic asbestos respirator mask for level 1, to powered air purifying respirator for level 2, and asbestos supplied air respirator systems for level 3.