Whether you’re a remediation contractor or a facility manager, you’re responsible for protecting your workers and other occupants from breathing potentially harmful particulates.
You may not be able to see the smallest airborne particles, but they are indeed the most dangerous for humans to breathe. Without a HEPA respirator, here’s the percent of smaller particles that can be drawn into a person’s lungs:
.1 micron particles – 100%
.5 micron particles – 98%
1 micron particles – 97%
If you’re having trouble picturing the size of these particles, a human hair measures 1,230 microns and one inch equals 25,400 microns!
Our normal human respiratory system will NOT protect us against very small particulate matter. Here are some of the smallest respirable particles:
Mold spores – 2 – 20 microns
Bacteria - .3 – 60 microns
Smoke - .01 – 4 microns
Viruses - .005 – .3 microns
Particles smaller than 5 microns, such as mold spores, are especially hazardous, because they can be inhaled deeply into the lungs in large quantities and cause serious chronic health problems. For example, mold exposure can cause asthma and other respiratory and pulmonary issues.
That’s why negative pressure air containments should only be created using an air scrubber like the Dri-Eaz HEPA 700. Independent testing shows that it exceeds HEPA, removing 99.99% of .1-.5 micron particles. The unit’s variable speed is also critical to maintain the correct level of negative air pressure and for the integrity of any containment, using the HEPA 700 ducting.
Workers who need to enter areas with mold or other harmful airborne particulates must wear a respirator with a HEPA filter cartridge, which removes 99.97% of particulates down to 0.3 micrometers. Employers are required by government regulations to “engineer out” risks, as much as possible. Running the HEPA 700 air scrubber is a great example of deploying an engineering control while supporting remediation activities and advancing the area’s return to regular use.
Being aware of how particle size can affect people and knowing what precautions to take can help you safeguard your workers’ and occupants’ health. The next step is to know your state and local regulations and hire certified professionals when required. If you’d like to become an IICRC-certified Applied Microbial Remdiation Technician, register for one of our upcoming AMRT classes.