Asbestos in Artex – What You Need to Know About Asbestos in Artex
Asbestos is a material that was used extensively in the construction industry during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. It wasn’t just cheap and strong, it also possessed favourable heat resistance and sound absorbing qualities that made it the perfect material for a variety of building purposes.
One of its most common uses was in textured coatings, such as artex, which was used to create decorative appearances on ceilings and walls.
Does All Artex Contain Asbestos?
No, not all artex contains asbestos. Asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999 so any artex produced after this should be free from asbestos.
However, if the artex in your building was built or refurbished before 1999, then there’s a strong possibility that it contains asbestos fibres. It was an incredibly popular material and was easy to acquire 30 or so years ago, meaning it was utilised on a frequent basis.
White asbestos (chrysotile) is the type of asbestos generally found in artex. Although the exact quantity will vary from product to product, artex and other textured coatings usually only contain very small amounts of asbestos (normally between 1-4%).
The Risk of Artex Asbestos Exposure
It’s worth noting that asbestos only becomes a risk to your health when the fibres become airborne and are inhaled into your lungs through your mouth or nose. Once they are in your body it’s easy for them to become trapped and cause serious health problems such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer later on in life (usually around 20 – 35 years after the initial exposure).
- Mesothelioma – An aggressive form of cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue covering some of your organs. Around 3,000 people are diagnosed with it every year in the UK. Find out more about mesothelioma here.
- Asbestosis – A non-cancerous but serious long-term lung condition that causes shortness of breath. This develops when the inhaled asbestos fibres cause lung scarring and stiffness.
- Lung cancer – Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. It’s heavily related to smoking but can also be caused by asbestos exposure.
If the asbestos-containing materials are in good condition and left undamaged they can be left alone and untreated as they pose no current threat. The fibres are well bonded so it’s only when the artex is disturbed or damaged that the asbestos fibres might get released into the air.
How to Tell if Artex has Asbestos
It is impossible to determine if asbestos is present in a textured coating just by looking at it with the naked eye. It’s an extremely difficult substance to identify in artex as it is always mixed with other non asbestos materials and as the fibres are so small they simply cannot be seen.
The only way to be 100% certain of its presence or absence is to have it tested by an accredited asbestos surveyor. Here at Casa Environmental Services our professional surveyors can safely take samples of your artex and subsequently carry out controlled analysis of the material at our specialist laboratory. We use polarised light microscopy combined with dispersion staining techniques to conclusively determine if the fibrous material is in fact present and whether it currently presents any risk to you.
Plastering Over Artex with Asbestos
If you wish to change the appearance of your wall or ceiling, plastering over the textured coating is a solution. Providing the artex is in a good condition and you’re not planning to sand, grind or chip the material prior to plastering it should be completely safe for you to either skim over it with a new layer of plaster or cover it with a layer of plasterboard. Undertaking this work can make the material safer however it should be noted that the asbestos is still in situ beneath and future works such as drilling should be undertaken in a controlled manner to avoid fibre release.
Removal of Textured Coatings containing Asbestos
To find out more about the process of safely removing asbestos from artex please don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our friendly team today. We are a UKAS accredited inspection body and testing laboratory providing professional asbestos management services throughout the UK and would be more than happy to provide you with a free no obligation quote.
We’re committed to customer satisfaction and to ensuring that our comprehensive range of services are delivered to the highest quality.