Can Masks Filter Out Asbestos?

We previously discussed how HEPA filters remove asbestos from the air extremely well. But asbestos causes cancer, so I wouldn’t rely on just a purifier while in the room. I’d want to wear a mask.

Can masks filter asbestos?
Me with my N95 on the streets of India

How Big Are Asbestos Particles?

Asbestos particles range from 0.7 to 90 microns. To put this size in perspective, below is the size of a 2.5 micron particle relative to a human hair.

Asbestos particles size

Yes, asbestos particles are super tiny! But do masks actually capture particles that small?

Masks: Very Effective At Filtering Asbestos

This study from the University of Massachusetts tested what percentage of particles of different sizes masks can capture. Here’s what they found:

Masks for asbestos

The closest size to 0.7 microns here is 500 nm and 1 um. (More mask test data down to .007 microns here.) The standard N95 mask on the left was capturing over 90% over both of these particle sizes. Thus, a good mask should protect you from a high percentage of asbestos particles (although I’d use an N99, which captures a higher percentage of particles).

Since asbestos are so dangerous, I’d suggest pairing a mask with a HEPA filter, which captures over 99% of asbestos particles on one pass of the filter. I started Smart Air as a not-for-profit social enterprise to provide affordable HEPA filter purifiers at an honest price.

Check them out here.

Bottom Line

An N95 mask should filter well over 90% of asbestos particles. HEPA air filters capture over 99% of asbestos particles.

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