asbestos wall

Can Air Purifiers Get Rid of Asbestos?

asbestos roof sheet

A solution you are bound to come across when you find out the air in your building or home is contaminated with asbestos is an air purifier. However, after digging around for one, you might find yourself wondering if they can actually get rid of asbestos.

In short, can air purifiers get rid of asbestos? Yes, air purifiers can get rid of asbestos. The most effective type of air purifier for asbestos removal is a HEPA air purifier. Though air purifiers can be used by anyone to get rid of asbestos, for safety reasons it is recommended an asbestos abatement professional conducts the process.

Whether you are hiring someone to remove asbestos from your air or doing it yourself, there are a lot of things you have to consider. For instance, in some cases, asbestos is not dangerous so it might be a waste of time getting an air purifier.

In other cases even if a professional comes in and fixes the problem you might still need to get an air purifier depending on how the problem was fixed. 

Even during the abatement process, you really have to know how to operate your air purifier for you to actually get rid of asbestos. I discuss all this and much more in the rest of this post and by the end of the post you should be sure about whether an air purifier will help you deal with asbestos pollution in your situation or not.

Is Asbestos Really Dangerous?

Before we explore how air purifiers can help you with asbestos I believe it is very important to firstly know the properties of asbestos and how it is dangerous. Once I understood how asbestos is dangerous, I got a deeper understanding of how purifiers can protect me from it.

If you are reading this post, you likely already know that asbestos has been ranked among the most hazardous airborne contaminants in the world. It was once used widely to build homes and in various industries but once its danger was discovered it has since been outlawed.

So why is asbestos so dangerous?? Asbestos is dangerous because it is inert and when tampered with it produces sharp-edged, fine and lightweight inert fibers that can stay in the air for up to 72 hours before settling. 

Because it's inert, it cannot be naturally degraded or destroyed by any chemicals, sunlight or even high-temperature heat. Accordingly, when you breathe it in, no enzymes in your body can decompose it and the fibers end up collecting in your lungs because they are so tiny.

Eventually, because your body cannot get rid of it, the fibers physically damage areas of your lungs and cause scarring. Chronic exposure to the substance then eventually leads to either asbestosis or a cancer called mesothelioma. This is why asbestos is so dangerous.

Now, though asbestos was banned ages ago, you might find yourself in a situation whereby you still have it in your home or building in one form or another. 

Whatever your case, if the substance has not been tampered with yet then rest assured you are still safe as none of it is airborne in your environment. 

For instance, I recently discovered that the roof of my childhood home was made of asbestos. After some research, I discovered that the roof tiles were stabilized with cement and other materials and you would really have to damage several of them really badly before you are guaranteed to inhale any asbestos fibers from the debris. 

To date, I can say our roof has gone undisturbed and free from any major damage, and I can confidently thank God that no one in my family has had any form of asbestos-related disease. The roof remains largely left alone and there are no troubles there. My family lives safely with an asbestos roof.

Now I know we won’t all have stabilized asbestos and you may find you have a type that crumbles easily. If that's your case you have to carefully determine if your asbestos is in a place where it will never be tampered with or not. 

If it's in a place where it can easily be tampered with, then this is a situation where asbestos really starts to become a hazard.  In this case, you can start thinking about using air purifiers but normally in such a situation you have two main options. You can either have your asbestos encapsulated or entirely removed

These options will largely depend on the structure of your home or building and how difficult it is to safely remove the material without serious consequences to your building or human health. 

On the other hand, if your asbestos has already been tampered with then this is where it is really dangerous. You will be wise to evacuate and seal the rooms where you think the airborne fibers may have contaminated. Make sure to seal the rooms from outside if you have no protective gas mask.  

At the same time, you also want to get professionals in asap to assess how bad the level of contamination is and the way forward.

So in summary, in a home or general building setting, asbestos is not always dangerous. Asbestos becomes dangerous when it is in a form and position whereby it can easily be tampered with and this where air purifiers come in to help and you can start looking for one.

How Do You Know If You Have Asbestos Pollution?

What makes asbestos pollution even more dangerous is that it's invisible. Unless present in considerably large concentrations, it is very hard to tell if you have asbestos pollution as the fibers that get into your air cannot be seen by the naked eye. 

In view of this, there are a couple of ways you can tell if you have asbestos in your air. I briefly mentioned earlier about calling in a professional. For anywhere between $200 - $500 you can get someone to come to your home and test for airborne asbestos.

The professionals use a test using an OSHA inspection approach and this is among the best tests you can do. Alternatively, you can do the test yourself for anywhere upwards of US$30. You simply order a home test kit like the Nirtue Labs home test kit from Amazon and follow the instructions. 

The test kit comes with tools that allow you to easily draw an air sample from the polluted area of your home. If you suspect your air is contaminated in more than one area of your home or building, then you will need as many test kits.

Once you have drawn your air samples as instructed on your test kit manual, you then mail the air sample container back to the lab for testing in a box and within a couple of days, you will receive your test results by email. 

Now if you test yourself and discover you have asbestos contamination in your air, you will still have to call some professionals to come in and assess how bad the situation is and how to go about the problem. 

Should I Get An Air Purifier To Remove Asbestos?

Once you have assessed whether you have asbestos contamination and the extent of your problem, you can now decide on whether an air purifier will help you resolve your problem. Here is how I recommend you should go about this decision.

In the case whereby you call professionals to your home and they decide to resolve the problem, they almost always will use an air purifier themselves. Besides other removal equipment, they will come to your home with heavy-duty air purifiers that suck the asbestos fibers out of the air.

Now if you have professionals come in and eliminate the source of your asbestos pollution completely, in this case, you will not need an air purifier at all as all the asbestos is all gone. 

However, if your asbestos removal guy had no other option but to encapsulate your asbestos, I think it's wise to have an air purifier running 24 hours a day in your home just to ensure you are safe.

An air purifier also comes in handy while you are waiting for someone to come in and fix your contamination problem. It can considerably limit the spread of airborne asbestos across your home. That said, until you have dealt with the source of the contamination, your air purifier will be playing a losing game.

In some cases, you can easily get rid of the source of your asbestos pollution yourself. This is where air purifiers will give you the most benefit. In such a situation, you will need an air purifier to clear the air while you get rid of the source and to clear the air after you have gotten rid of the source. 

So these are all the situations where you should get an air purifier to deal with asbestos. After assessing your case, should you conclude you need an air purifier, then the best type you can get to get rid of airborne asbestos is a TRUE HEPA air purifier.

HEPA air purifiers are the industry standard when it comes to airborne asbestos removal. When it comes to HEPA air purifiers, to clean your air effectively you want to go with one that can exchange the air in your given room at least  15 times per hour. 

If your room is too big for a single air purifier to achieve this, then you can look into getting multiple air purifiers. The higher your air purifier’s air exchange rate the faster it can get rid of the dangerous asbestos fibers in your air. This is, of course, assuming your purifier has great filters.

You will find various purifiers out there that can do the job. For a situation whereby your contamination is contained in one room and you can easily deal with the source yourself a normal household HEPA air purifier like the ones I have listed here should suffice. 

However, if you have a more serious case you want to tackle on your own, you will need an industrial-grade air purifier. This is what asbestos abatement pros use. The industrial air purifiers can move much more air (up to 2000 cubic feet) per minute and they also have a much larger filtering surface area.

To add on they are also sealed much better to ensure no leakages or any pollutants seeping through around their edges. A good example of this type of air purifier is the B-Air BA-RA-650-GN air purifier

This purifier is as good as HEPA air purifiers get when it comes to professional asbestos abatement. So whether you are doing the abatement yourself or you hired someone to do it, if you see an ordinary household air purifier is used, for your safety, your alarm bells should go off on whether the abatement process is being done well or not.

In conclusion, when making the decision on whether you need an air purifier or not, 

  • You can get one if you hire someone and they encapsulate your asbestos or if you are getting rid of the asbestos on your own. 
  • However, if your abatement guy got rid of all the asbestos and cleared the air in your home or building with his own air purifier then you do not need to get your own air purifier just to deal with the asbestos.

To be extra safe, make sure to test your air immediately after you complete your air cleaning process and about 3 months later. If your asbestos levels are still high then that means your abatement process was not done well or perhaps your air purifier is not working or of sufficient capacity. If that’s the case you will need more aggressive abatement measures.

How Best To Get Rid Of Asbestos With Air Purifiers?

With the knowledge that a HEPA air purifier is the only type of air purifier that you really need to deal with airborne asbestos, let's look at how air purifiers actually get rid of asbestos and accordingly how to most effectively use them to deal with asbestos.

The reason HEPA air purifiers are all you need to get rid of airborne asbestos fibers is that HEPA air purifiers are designed to get rid of 99% of airborne particulates that are above the size of 0.1 microns while asbestos fibers range above 0.7 microns in size. 

Asbestos particulates are much bigger than the smallest particulate that a HEPA filter can capture making HEPA air purifiers the perfect type of air purifier for keeping them out of the air as they can easily capture asbestos particulates. The way your air purifier achieves this is by sucking air into its core where the HEPA filter is located.

Your air purifier sucks contaminated air in your room into its core. Thereafter the HEPA filter traps and absorbs the contaminant asbestos particles contained in this air. Thereafter once the air passes through the filter it comes out of the purifier all cleaned and free of asbestos into your room. 

This process happens several times before your air is completely clean, hence I pointed out earlier the need to have an air purifier that can do over 15 air exchanges per hour or more. 

Applying the same principle, the longer you leave the purifier working the cleaner your air gets. In my opinion, if your purifier permits and you can, you should run your air purifier 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

Beyond having a high air exchange rate, to get the most out of your air purifier when dealing with asbestos, you also need to note that HEPA air purifiers can only clean a single room at a time. 

This means you cannot get rid of asbestos in adjacent rooms just by keeping your doors open. To clean multiple rooms at the same time you need an air purifier for each room. Besides that, for asbestos pollution, you have to get an air purifier that has at least twice the capacity in square feet than the size of your room.

So if your room is 500 square feet, you need an air purifier that can do at least 6 to 8 air exchanges in a room size of 1000 square feet. This allows you to do over 12 air exchanges in your room of 500 square feet. 

For your air purifier to work well, you also need to make sure you isolate and minimize airflow in and out of the room. You can do this by simply closing all the windows and doors in the affected room. 

This helps ensure your air purifier is not working beyond its capacity and that it mainly targets the pollutants in the affected room and consequently improves the time and performance of your air purifier in removing airborne asbestos in your room.

Next, as I pointed out earlier you have to eliminate your source of asbestos. HEPA air purifiers are designed to be the most effective only in the absence of the source of the pollutant. Accordingly, it is impossible to completely get rid of the asbestos with an air purifier if you have not eliminated the source of pollution.

If you don’t get rid of the source, the best your air purifier will do is reach some form of equilibrium. This is a point below which the level of asbestos in the room cannot be brought down further by your air purifier because more asbestos continues to be released into your air from an ever-present source. 

Then beyond this, your air purifier will eventually lose the war because its filters eventually wear out and if that happens you are back to square one. So I can’t stress this enough, start by eliminating the source of asbestos in your home or building if you want to get any joy from your air purifier.

Among the various sources of asbestos pollution the most common include, a deteriorating drywall joint compound, wall insulation or piping insulation. Again I repeat, if you have a major source, you want to get people who do this for a living to come in and clear it out or cover it for you.

If the source is eliminated, and you have got the sizing and positioning of your air purifier right, to state the obvious you need to ensure you follow your air purifiers operating manual as best as you can.

Air purifiers are finicky appliances. You miss a step or bend the rules a little and you get funny smells coming out of your purifier or it will simply stop working or something. So do everything from setting it up, turning it on and changing your filters as instructed in your appliance’s manual.

A thing you should be careful about though that may not be mentioned in your manual in connection with asbestos is to take extra care when you are replacing your HEPA filter. If you tamper with a saturated filter or accidentally bump it, “POOF”,  you could reintroduce the trapped asbestos fibers back into your air. 

So make sure to firstly carry out any filter changes for your air purifier outdoors, away from any building and secondly you wear a protective mask while you replace your purifier filter. An N99 mask should do the trick. 

Lastly, after you have been careful to follow all the steps I have highlighted here, you will be shocked to know that when you finally get your air purifier going, it may take you another 6 to 8 hours before it completely clears your air of asbestos. 

So, all in all, you have to exercise a lot of patience and diligence when it comes to using an air purifier for asbestos. If you have played your cards right and got all your ducks in a row your air purifier will work its magic and eventually eliminate any asbestos present in your indoor air.

About the Author


Jean is a research economist by profession and he runs Fresh Air Genie. He is enthusiastic about maintaining good air quality at home and on the go and he shares his knowledge about this here at Fresh Air Genie.

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