Removing mold and cleaning an area of exposure is a safety hazard because the mold spores are stirred up into the air. This can multiply the exposure and put people at a much higher risk for respiratory ailments. This is why mold remediation experts always wear protective gear including gloves and clothing that can be washing well or discarded. Most importantly, this is why they use a respirator.
The National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends at least an N-95 rating on any respirator used for mold removal, but many people don’t know what that means. At the most basic level, that is what you need to know to keep yourself safe from mold spores during mold removal, but here’s a bit more information.
A respirator is a mask worn over the face to filter out particles. These particles may include mold spores, bacteria, and viruses. There are more advanced respirators that can filter chemicals and gases and even those that have their own air supply. For the purposes of mold remediation, a respirator is a safety mask to filter the air you breathe.
The letter on the respirator rating means whether or not it is resistant to oil. The letter ‘N’ means it is not resistant. In a setting where oil was present, oil would limit the efficacy of the filter. The letter “R” means somewhat resistant to oil. The letter ‘P’ means totally resistant/oil-proof. These oil-based particles are most often present when an oil-based product is sprayed. This is not the case during mold remediation, so there is no reason to spend the extra money (unless it’s a unique situation that warrants it).
The number is the efficiency of the mask. An N-95 rating means that at least 95 percent of particles will be filtered.
Note: Exhalation valves are safe, and they can make a respiration mask much more comfortable, as it reduces the amount of moisture in the mask.
Only buy NIOSH certified respiration masks. They are the only guarantee of protection, and if it isn’t certified, you should wonder why.
Of all the protective gear involved in mold remediation, a respirator is arguably the most important because mold is believed to be responsible for creating or worsening respiratory conditions or ailments. If you are removing your own mold, invest in a proper mask, and make sure you take every precaution you can to reduce your exposure.