During home improvement projects, two of the most dangerous materials a person might encounter are mould and asbestos. It is important that anyone at risk of exposure to them be equipped with the proper kind of safety mask.
Asbestos-Related Health Risks
Asbestos exposure can lead to lung cancer, asbestosis, or mesothelioma later in life. Ovarian cancer, cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are sometimes linked to asbestos.
Mold-Related Health Risks
Certain forms of mould can lead to minor ailments such as allergies, or very dangerous health issues such as neurological problems or compromised immune systems.
Dust masks are single-piece face coverings meant to be used just once. Any dust mask labelled N95 is safe to use in some situations involving mould or asbestos. Some companies call these masks disposable respirators.
Respirators can be used multiple times, and they feature replaceable filters and cartridges. Respirators come in half-mask and full-mask varieties. Before purchasing one, make sure it is NIOSH-approved. Respirator models approved for asbestos abatement include 3M's 6000 series with P100 filters, and North brand 5400 series full-mask respirators. The fit of a mask or respirator is important; be sure to check it.
If you believe you might have uncovered asbestos or mould, you should hire a licensed contractor. Removal of asbestos without a license can endanger your health, and it might lead to legal proceedings. Many county or state health or environmental departments provide lists of licensed asbestos-abatement contractors.