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Should I wear protective clothing when working with asbestos?

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QuestionWe know that our popcorn ceilings contain asbestos and I plan to remove them this summer. I'm a little antsy about working with asbestos, so what kind of safety equipment should I wear?

AnswerConsidering that the United States Department of Health and Human Services has determined that asbestos is a known carcinogen, you are smart to be asking about safety equipment.

The dangers are very real. Inhaling asbestos, even small amounts, can cause lung cancer, asbestosis (scarring of the lungs similar to emphysema), and mesothelioma (a cancer of the chest and abdominal linings which causes tumors which are always fatal). Exposure to asbestos may also increase the risk of other cancers such as those of the larynx (throat) and the gastrointestinal tract (stomach).

Be sure to wear an approved respirator (half-face, dual-cartridge, each equipped with purple color-coded P-, N-, or R-100 [HEPA] filters). Men with beards often cannot be adequately fitted with this type of respirator. Also required are disposable clothing (coveralls with built-in booties), eye protection, and rubber gloves. You will also want to rent or purchase a HEPA vacuum for cleanup.

HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter and refers to a material rated to trap 99.97 percent of airborne particles 0.3 microns and larger (available for rental through your local rental yard). ULPA (Ultra-Low Penetration Air) filters trap even more: 99.99 percent of particles 0.12 microns and larger.

Be aware that the work can be demanding and difficult to perform while wearing protective clothing. The water used to wet the asbestos will raise the room's humidity, reducing your visibility through the required eye protection, and will make clothing hot, sticky, and uncomfortable. It is also difficult to breathe through a respirator and it can cause stress to your heart and lungs.

Disposable clothing and other safety equipment can be purchased through local dealers. Look in your yellow pages under the heading "Safety Equipment & Clothing."

I encourage you to read all the Q&As here carefully, check out all the links to read what others have to offer, and consult your local/regional/state air quality authorities about the applicable regulations before you begin the project.

Asbestos abatement has stringent requirements. When you finish your research, you may decide to turn it over to the pros, something I heartily recommend.

I've been in the construction field for over 25 years and wish I'd known then what I know now about asbestos. I would not have tackled a lot of projects because of the asbestos content of certain building products.

To get the whole picture, I recommend that you purchase my informative article, Asbestos In Popcorn Ceilings, Purchase this article to learn about asbestos in popcorn ceiling and how to patch them!which describes how to determine if asbestos is present and the steps a professional takes to decide if removal is the correct course of action. These same steps apply to homeowners facing the same decisions.

Included are links to government and state agencies where you can get more information on the subject, locate state-certified professional asbestos contractors for removal, and find other documents that address removing the asbestos yourself.

As an added bonus, Patching a Popcorn Ceiling has been added to Asbestos In Popcorn Ceilings to help those who need to make repairs to their ceilings. The process is about the same whether the ceiling contains asbestos or not; however, for your own peace of mind, you still need to determine if your ceiling contains asbestos, and the article describes procedures to follow to safely take a sample for testing.

Click to Purchase Don't forget—before starting this project get your informative 10-page PDF article titled Asbestos In Popcorn Ceilings and Patching a Popcorn Ceiling. To order your downloadable .pdf printable copy, click here or click the purchase button to the left!

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Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.

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