Is Asbestos Artex Dangerous?

During its heyday in the early to mid-20th century asbestos found its way into a variety of building materials including a decorative, plaster-like substance marketed under the brand name “Artex.” The asbestos in Artex gave the material additional strength as well as sculptural qualities and as a result it became a popular material for creating textured surfaces, most often on ceilings (although occasionally on walls as well). Once the health risks of asbestos were finally made public as a result of court proceedings, asbestos was gradually phased out as an ingredient in Artex; although that process wasn’t complete until sometime after 1999 when asbestos was banned completely in the UK.

Is the Asbestos in Artex a Genuine Health Hazard?

This question can spark heated debate with defenders of the product (which is still produced today but without asbestos) stating categorically that unless the Artex is somehow disturbed by drilling into it, picking at it or doing unrelated work near it that might cause it to break off and create dust, there is no danger. While on the other hand many health advocates state with equal passion that allowing old Artex to remain in place is like having a ticking time bomb in your house or business. So who is right?

Technically both sides have valid arguments. When Artex defenders say there is no danger unless the material is somehow converted to powder form they are technically correct. However, health officials who equate old Artex to a ticking time bomb are also correct. The safest course of action if you discover old Artex in your home or business is to determine if it contains asbestos and, if it does, to have it professionally removed.

Detecting Asbestos in Artex

Asbestos cannot be seen or smelled so identifying it – especially if it’s only one ingredient in a mixture like Artex – requires either the assistance of an asbestos professional or the use of an asbestos test kit such as the one we offer at asbestos-sampling.com. Once it has been confirmed that asbestos is present in the Artex, removal should proceed without delay.

A qualified and experienced HSE licensed asbestos mitigation contractor should be engaged to remove the Artex. They in turn will need to notify the relevant authorities that this removal work is going to take place. Once they have done so and received approval, removal of the Artex can proceed and should not be a long, drawn out process.

For the record: There are those who advocate simply top-coating asbestos-containing Artex but most responsible health authorities see this strategy as little more than kicking the can down the street for the next person to deal with. If you can afford it, removal is always the preferred option. Keep in mind as well that a home which is known to contain Artex with asbestos may be difficult to sell both because of the implied health hazard and because its presence can undermine a buyer’s plans to renovate the house at a later date.