29th May, 2018

The Risk Of Asbestos In Artex Ceilings

Many buildings contain artex and other textured coatings on walls and ceilings which may contain asbestos. The biggest risk is not the artex itself, but the potentially deadly fibres contained in it. In this post, we look at when you should be worried, and what the law says about asbestos in artex.

The Risk Of Asbestos In Artex Ceilings header image

Many buildings contain artex and other textured coatings on walls and ceilings which may contain asbestos.

When people first hear the word asbestos and find out it could be present in a coating that's often found on the ceilings of bedrooms and living areas of homes, it's normal to be worried about the effect this may have on your health. The good news is, providing these materials are left undamaged, they are not a threat to your health.

The biggest risk is not the artex itself, but the deadly asbestos fibres that could be in it.

If you are planning building work, fixing something to your wall or ceiling that involves drilling, or want to sand the material down or disturb it in another way, you need to know if it contains asbestos first.

Does artex contain asbestos?

Yes, it can, but not all artex will contain asbestos.

Asbestos was a popular building material because it was cheap, durable and strong, and was used in thousands of products (including artex) prior to being banned fully in 1999. Unfortunately, asbestos was still legal when artex was popular during the 60's, 70's and 80's, so much of the artex used during that period contains asbestos fibres.

Artex and other textured coatings containing asbestos were still being used in construction until asbestos was banned. These products are often found on the walls and ceilings of residential properties.

It's not possible to know of artex contains asbestos just from looking at it. To know for sure, it would need to be sampled and tested.

While many artex products contained asbestos, asbestos-free artex was available from the 1970's. However, because you can't tell if it contains asbestos without testing, any artex installed prior to the ban should be assumed to contain asbestos.

How much asbestos does artex contain?

The quantity of asbestos in artex is relatively low, typically stated as around 1-2%. However, its asbestos content can be as much as 4% with figures from the HSE of 1.8% asbestos for ready mixed products and around 3.8% asbestos for trade use.

The type of asbestos found in artex is chrysotile, also known as white asbestos, which wasn't banned in the UK until 1999.

If I have artex in my house, am I at risk?

No. Artex and other textured coatings can contain small amounts of asbestos, but the fibres are well bonded and not easily released. As artex is often found on ceilings it is not easily damaged in building occupation, and providing the artex is not damaged you are not at risk.

Asbestos is only a risk to health when the fibres are released and breathed into your lungs. Asbestos containing products can remain in properties without risk to your health, as long as they are not damaged.

asbestos fibres tiny

How do I know if my artex contains asbestos?

All forms of asbestos were banned by 1999, so asbestos may be part of any building which was built or refurbished before the year 2000.

The only way to be 100% sure if asbestos is present is to have the artex tested by an asbestos surveyor.

If you are planning to have construction or maintenance work done on your property, and the artex is likely to be disturbed, you should have a refurbishment and demolition asbestos survey done. This survey will identify if asbestos is present. If asbestos is found, this will need to be addressed and either removed or protected before work can commence.

Do I need a licensed contractor?

Some asbestos can be removed by a non-licensed contractor, in small quantities or if it is low risk work. Removing textured coatings, like artex, is non-licensed work, but this doesn't mean it is safe or that no controls need to be in place. You still need to be trained for this work.

Some non-licensed work, where the risk of fibre release is greater, is considered notifiable non-licensed work (NNLW), and subject to additional requirements including notification of the work to the HSE, warning notices and medical examinations. Removal of large areas of textured coatings can be classed as NNLW.

Need help creating a safe system of work? Use the artex removal method statement template to get started.

Asbestos is a high risk material. Safety measures such as damping down and PPE will be required, along with appropriate cleaning and disposal of asbestos waste.

If the artex coating covers other asbestos materials, like asbestos insulating board (AIB) then a licensed contractor will be needed.

What if I want to do the work myself?

You are strongly advised not to carry out any work on asbestos unless you have had the appropriate training, even for non-licensed asbestos work. If you do decide to proceed with small amounts of non-licensed work yourself, you need to make sure you wear suitable PPE and follow a safe working procedure.

The HSE published a number of asbestos task sheets online, with guides that should be followed to minimise the risk to yourself and other people.

Licensed asbestos work is a significantly hazardous job needing additional precautions including enclosures, specialist respiratory protective equipment (RPE), monitoring, supervision, medical surveillance and should only be carried out by licensed contractors.

What does the law say?

Although asbestos is banned, the law doesn't say it must be removed. It does say it must be managed, and that when it is removed, it must be removed in a highly controlled way.

Because asbestos is such a high-risk material, it has its own set of regulations. The Control of Asbestos Regulations put legal duties on everything from the management of asbestos materials to its removal and disposal.

PART 2 General requirements

  • Regulation 4 - Duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises
  • Regulation 5 - Identification of the presence of asbestos
  • Regulation 6 - Assessment of work which exposes employees to asbestos
  • Regulation 7 - Plans of work
  • Regulation 8 - Licensing of work with asbestos
  • Regulation 9 - Notification of work with asbestos
  • Regulation 10 - Information, instruction and training
  • Regulation 11 - Prevention or reduction of exposure to asbestos
  • Regulation 12 - Use of control measures etc
  • Regulation 13 - Maintenance of control measures etc
  • Regulation 14 - Provision and cleaning of protective clothing
  • Regulation 15 - Arrangements to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies
  • Regulation 16 - Duty to prevent or reduce the spread of asbestos
  • Regulation 17 - Cleanliness of premises and plant
  • Regulation 18 - Designated areas
  • Regulation 19 - Air monitoring
  • Regulation 20 - Standards for air testing and site clearance certification
  • Regulation 21 - Standards for analysis
  • Regulation 22 - Health records and medical surveillance
  • Regulation 23 - Washing and changing facilities
  • Regulation 24 - Storage, distribution and labelling of raw asbestos and asbestos waste
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012

If you are planning construction work, you need to let any contractors know the location of any asbestos containing materials. All building work should have a refurbishment and demolition asbestos survey, which involves taking samples of the areas that will be affected by the works, to check for asbestos.

Remember, providing artex is in good condition, there is no increased risk to your health. If you are planning building work, or want to get your artex ceiling removed, you can get advice from an environmental health office, the HSE or asbestos specialists in order to safely plan the work and prevent accidental asbestos exposure.

Asbestos related cancers and diseases can take years to develop, but when they do develop they are often fatal and there is no cure. So be safe, and be asbestos aware.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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