Do I Need A Respirator

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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Summary Statement

A brief description of the types of respirators that can be used for protection against asbestos, silica and other dusts.

When you are exposed to asbestos, silica, or other dusts that can cause cancer at levels above the allowable exposure limits - and there is no other way to keep the exposure levels down to safe levels - NIOSH recommends that you use a respirator. For low-level exposures, high efficiency filter respirators can protect you. (These are N-, R-, or P-100 filters for non-powered respirators and HE filters for powered respirators.) For high exposures, you will need positive-pressure supplied air. NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

OSHA requires a respirator for most work with asbestos.

If you use a filter respirator, whether you need an N-, R-, or P-series filter depends on whether there are oil particles where you are working

  • If there are no oil particles in the work area, it's OK to use a filter of any series - N-, R-, or P-.
  • If there may be oil particles where you are working - for instance, in lubricants, cutting fluids, or glycerine - you cannot use an N filter. Use an R- or P- filter.
  • If there may be oil particles and the filter will be used for more than one work shift, use only a P- filter.

To help remember which filter to use, think of:

    N for Not resistant to oil,
    R for Resistant to oil
    P for oil Proof

If you use a respirator, use one that is NIOSH approved. (If a respirator is NIOSH approved, chemical cartridges, particulate filters, and the box it comes in will say "NIOSH." Self-contained breathing apparatus will have a NIOSH label on the backpack.) And check the NIOSH-approved instructions for the model you are using.

This information is from the NIOSH website:

The OSHA asbestos regulation is at

Or, contact your local OSHA office, listed at