On the list of harmful airborne contaminants, asbestos ranks among the most hazardous. At one time the most frequently used material in a vast array of products and industries, this fibrous substance has since been outlawed in a majority of the developed world. Exposure to airborne asbestos fibers can pose severe long-term health risks as well as death, so it is important to ensure the air that you, your family, and your employees are breathing is completely free of asbestos. If you are concerned about possible asbestos exposure in your home or business, you may be considering using a HEPA air filter.
Commonly abbreviated as HEPA, the high efficiency particulate arresting (or absorbing) air filter is a specialized mechanical filter designed to improve the indoor air quality by efficiently eliminating a number of different airborne allergens and particles that can be harmful or irritating to humans. Inside a HEPA filter is a screen-like sheet of fibers, usually made of fiberglass, which catch and trap the tiny particles as air flows through the filter. Since the HEPA air filter is by design capable of capturing only solid particles, it cannot purify the air of any gases, but it is able to catch the most minuscule, dangerous, and difficult-to-trap of these solid particles, including – but not limited to – mold spores, bacterial and viral organisms, dust and dust mites, animal dander, smoke, and asbestos.
Technically, the answer is yes. Airborne asbestos fibers are solid particles that vary in size between 0.7 and 90 microns, while HEPA air filters are built to best absorb particles above and below 0.3 microns, so these appliances have no trouble capturing the tiny toxic fibers. In fact, HEPA air purifiers and HEPA vacuum cleaners – fully equipped with HEPA filters and securely sealed at both ends – are used by certified professionals both indoors and outdoors in the remediation of asbestos, mold, lead, and other irritants. However, while they are great at what they do, HEPA air filters can only do so much if the original source of exposure is still located within the building and producing airborne particles.
For best results, choose HEPA air filters that offer a higher exchange rate of air per hour. The air exchange rate correlates directly to the efficiency and effectiveness of a given HEPA filter as it purifies the air in a certain space. The higher the air exchange rate, the more efficient a HEPA filter is. To ensure that all remnants of asbestos particles have been eliminated, look for a high-quality brand – while some are capable of delivering up to 15 air exchanges per hour, others are limited to as few as two air exchanges per hour. As always, consult a knowledgeable asbestos abatement professional immediately if you fear you may be experiencing asbestos exposure.
Unless you are trained and experienced in dealing with asbestos abatement, it cannot be stressed strongly enough that an undertaking of this magnitude should be left in the capable hands of qualified professionals with the extensive knowledge and certifications to handle the situation safely and effectively. The dangers of asbestos exposure are all too real and should never be viewed lightly. It might be tempting to save a few bucks by adopting a do-it-yourself attitude and tackling it alone armed with determination and a HEPA filter, but the downside could turn out to be tragic in the long run. Asbestos should be removed and disposed of safely and securely by professional contractors with protective equipment and appropriate monitoring following a strict set of safety guidelines to ensure the long-term health of everyone involved.
Repeated and intense exposure to airborne asbestos fibers can lead to serious long-term health conditions ranging from asbestosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to mesothelioma and lung cancer. In many cases, symptoms have not appeared until years after the initial contact with asbestos, meaning that these lethal fibers can build up inside the body over a period of time and you may not find out until it’s too late. Keep in mind that there is no amount of asbestos exposure that is safe. For this reason, it is imperative that you enlist a qualified professional if you are planning to renovate an older home or building and aren’t certain about the presence of asbestos on the property.