Artex in your home - how safe is it?
Back in the 1970's Artex was used extensively as wall, floor and ceiling coverings by the DIY fanatics. It followed on from the polystyrene ceiling tile as the chosen ceiling covering. It was usually used to hide older cracked lath & plaster ceilings. No plastering skills were necessary hence its popularity. It was available in bags and many people would mix it up often without face masks.
Unfortunately early artex contained asbestos as a strengthening fibre. It was often plastered on by the DIY enthusiast in private homes and then textured.
When people hear the word asbestos and discover that it could be present in the artex coating in their house it is of course normal to be concerned in relation to your health. The good news is, providing these materials are left undamaged, they are not a threat.
The biggest risk is not the artex itself, but the deadly asbestos fibres that could be in it.
Therefore if you are considering building work, fixing something to a wall or ceiling involving drilling, or want to sand the material down you must establish if the artex contains asbestos.
How do you know if artex contains asbestos
Not all artex will contain asbestos. Asbestos was banned in building products in 1999. But prior to that in the 60's, 70's and 80's most of the artex available contained asbestos. There were however products on the market that did not contain asbestos.
It is impossible to determine if the artex contains asbestos without professional sampling and testing. At Inner City Environmental we can arrange testing for you. It must always be assumed that the artex does contain asbestos until it has been tested.
Percentage of asbestos in artex
The percentage of asbestos in most artex is quite low, it is typically stated as around 1-2%. However, it can be as much as 4% with figures from the HSE of 1.8% asbestos for ready mixed products. It is around 3.8% asbestos for trade use.
The type of asbestos found is chrysotile, also known as white asbestos, which wasn't banned in the UK until 1999.
Are you at risk if your artex contains asbestos?
Asbestos is only a risk to your health when the fibres are released and breathed into your lungs. Products containing asbestos can remain in a property without risk to health, as long as they are not damaged.
All forms of asbestos were banned in the UK by 1999. Asbestos may be part of any building which was built or refurbished before 2000.
The only way to be sure if asbestos is contained within your artex coating is to have it tested by an asbestos surveyor.
Artex is likely to be disturbed when any building work is undertaken. A refurbishment and demolition asbestos survey will identify if asbestos is contained within the artex. If asbestos is found, this will need to be addressed and removed or protected before work can commence.
Do you need a licensed contractor to remove artex
The removal of textured coatings, like artex, is classed as non-licensed work. However this doesn't mean it is safe or that no controls need to be in place. You still need to be trained to carry out 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.
Asbestos is a high risk material. Safety measures are required such as damping down and specific 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. If a proper R&D survey is carried out other materials will be detected.
Can the work be carried without training
We strongly advise anyone not to carry out any work on asbestos unless they 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. Visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/essentials/ for full guidance.
Licensed asbestos work is a hazardous process requiring 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.
For more information our full range of environmental services visit www.innercityenvironmental.co.uk
For more information on Asbestos follow the links to our other blog posts