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Asbestos Exposure From Textured Coatings, New Research Says Low Risk

New research on asbestos confirms that risks from asbestos containing textured coatings (TCs) are much lower than previously thought. The new research published today supports the proposal that work with textured coatings will no longer require a licence.

The Health and Safety Commission’s (HSC) draft amendments to asbestos regulations, which have recently been the subject of consultation, aim to tighten overall controls. The proposed changes include a lower single control limit of 0.1 fibres per cm 3 for work with all types of asbestos.

Textured coatings contain only small amounts of asbestos and this is bound in a matrix that does not readily release asbestos fibres when removed. In response to early comments received during consultation, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) commissioned the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) to carry out further research into work with TCs.

Kevin Walkin, Head of Asbestos Policy at HSE, said: “The research shows that the risk from asbestos-containing textured coatings is comparable to the risks from work with asbestos cement, which does not require a licence.

“We’re not saying this work is no-risk - it still needs to be carried out by trained workers using appropriate controls. Licensing is an additional check on high-risk work and should reflect changing knowledge about risks to remain credible.”

In the original research where standard controlled removal (wetting, air extraction) techniques were employed, the mean airborne asbestos fibre concentration was 0.08 f/cm 3, which is below the proposed control limit of 0.1 f/cm3.

In the new research issues of removal from a wider range of surfaces, the effect of working with no air extraction and the effectiveness of the clearance based on a visual assessment alone, were addressed. The fibre concentrations were less than 0.1 f/cm3 when using the control removal techniques required in the draft Approved Code of Practice (AcoP),

HSL also tested clearance strategies inside enclosures during the new research. Measurements demonstrated that a fibre concentration of around 0.01 f/cm3 would be produced from disturbance required for clearance testing sampling. A simulation exercise at HSL showed that even if large amounts of debris remained after a removal, the airborne concentration would be very low and that visual assessment would be an effective method of assessing that the area was safe for reoccupation.

Measurements made just outside removal enclosures whilst textured decorative coatings were being removed indicated that it is unlikely that fibre releases would exceed 0.01 f/cm3 in the immediate area.

Kevin Walkin said: “This new research shows that the level of asbestos fibres in the air from work with textured coatings will not exceed the proposed new control limit when carried out using good practice and that clearing up all the visible debris will be sufficient to ensure that premises are safe for reoccupation.”

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