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During some Urbex explorations sometimes I'll encounter a building with an asbestos warning. Is there any way that I can safely explore these buildings? Would Just something like a surgical mask and some gloves be enough or can I not go into these places without a hazmat suit?

Thank you very much.

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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about health issues in urban areas. This is quite far away from what is typically considered "outdoors". – Benedikt Bauer Apr 15 '14 at 9:02
But Urbex being abandoned man made constructions where nature took its rights it cannot be considered as Urban either! sorry if I miss placed this topic. – HappyDump Apr 15 '14 at 9:38
I would say, it's as off-topic as questions about speleology, caravaning or mountain huts. Taking things not so literal, I can't think better SE site for such questions as that. Just note, most questions on StackOverflow doesn't have mucht to do with stack overflow... – Danubian Sailor Apr 15 '14 at 9:45
To discuss whether or not this is on-topic, see this meta question. – gerrit Apr 15 '14 at 15:06
I've entered buildings like that, if you avoid making or inhaling dust, I believe the risks are minimal. – Sdry Apr 16 '14 at 10:15
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Welcome to outdoors.SE! Older buildings often contain asbestos in solid form, and it may be sealed up (under floorboards, in tape around heating ducts, etc.). As long as it's not ground up into dust, the hazard is minimal. For example, construction workers knocking down a building or remodeling it can get exposed to asbestos dust if they don't realize that there's asbestos in it. Simply walking around in a building that contains undamaged asbestos isn't dangerous. The danger would be greatest for people who have long-term exposure, e.g., the people who used to work in the asbestos industry. You could try to judge whether the building is damaged, but it might be difficult to figure that out.

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So just in case it is a bit damaged I could go with a surgical mask if the building is damaged and it would be enough to prevent any problems through short term exposure? – HappyDump Apr 15 '14 at 14:09
@HappyDump No! Surgical masks are intended to stop droplets (e.g. spraying blood), not fine asbestos fibres. You need at minimum a respirator that is rated for asbestos, which in the U.S. you can purchase at retail for around $30. You would also be advised to wear protective clothing, shoes, and gloves, and to discard them appropriately in case any contaminated dust has collected on them. – choster Apr 15 '14 at 17:03
Thank you for these informations Choster! – HappyDump Apr 16 '14 at 8:15

There is no way to prevent asbestos fibers from entering your lungs except by certain facial masks with specialized air filters. An ordinary surgical mask will NOT work. The fibers are too small.

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It might be worth noting that asbestos can contaminate things, ie your clothing. So even if you wear a mask while on site you could still expose yourself, or others after you have left.

here's a link to a pdf about PPE for working with asbestos

here's the HSE's (uk goverment body for health and safety) site for asbestos

be careful.

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