Low Density Asbestos Product FAQs

Low Density Asbestos Containing Products FAQs

Low density asbestos containing products are those which absorb more than 30% of their weight of water.

Q: For some years I have been working in an office, which I am now told has an asbestos ceiling. Will this have damaged my health?

A: The ceiling will probably be a low density insulation board containing amosite asbestos. If it is in good condition and is not being abraded, then it will not be releasing dangerous quantities of fibres. You need to ensure that if any work needs to be carried out on the ceiling, that it is carried out by a contractor licensed by the HSE to work with low density asbestos products.


Q: I am considering buying a house and the surveyor has advised me that the integral garage ceiling may contain asbestos and so should be sealed or removed. How do I find out if the ceiling contains asbestos?

A: You can not tell from looking at the product if it contains asbestos. The first question to ask is when was the ceiling constructed? As this is an integral garage, the ceiling will need to have been fire protected and so it will be a fire protection product. Asbestos containing fire protection products were withdrawn in the late 1970s, and so if the garage was built after 1980, you can be reasonably confident that it does not contain asbestos. If the garage was built before 1980, then it probably contains a low-density asbestos insulation board, which will contain 20-30% amosite asbestos.

The only way to be sure is to arrange for a sample to be analysed by a competent laboratory; you can obtain a list of laboratories that have been accredited to check for asbestos in samples from the United Kingdom Accreditation Service web site at www.ukas.org . It may however be simpler to just treat the ceiling as if it is a low-density product, and not bother with the analyses. If the ceiling is in good condition and not being abraded or likely to be abraded in the future, then it could simply be painted over. Do not sand the ceiling prior to the painting and ensure that the paint used is alkali resistant. The ceiling should only be removed if it is in bad condition and breaking down.


Q: I have an asbestos ceiling in my kitchen and I wish to drill some holes for a light fitting; the work will only take half an hour and as it seems excessive to have to use a licensed contractor I am going to do it myself. What precautions should I take?

A: Since this is such short duration work, you do not need to use a licensed contractor. For this type of work, you can undertake the project yourself or use a competent contractor, as long as you or the contractor have not worked with asbestos containing products in the recent past.

You may also be in the situation that the ceiling contains asbestos cement, rather than a low-density board in which case you only need to use a competent contractor. If though, you are going to do the work yourself, you should clear the room and ensure that no one enters whilst you are doing the work. You should wear a mask that is ‘CE’ marked to EN 149 with FFP3 particulate filters suitable for protection against asbestos and ensure that it is fitted as well as possible and that you wear disposable overalls with a hood too. Lay polythene sheeting on the floor beneath where you are working and have to hand some damp disposable cloths. Mark on the ceiling where the holes are to be drilled, and over the marks place a blob of ready mixed wallpaper paste and drill through the blobs of wallpaper paste with the drill set on the slowest setting, ensuring that you are not directly beneath where you are drilling.

Once the drilling is complete, wipe the surface of the board you have drilled and your drill with damp cloths and place the cloths in a plastic bag. Fix your light fixing. Wipe everything down with damp cloths and place the cloths in plastic bags. Place the plastic bags with cloths in the polythene sheet and then place the polythene sheet and the plastic bags in another plastic bag. Take off your overalls and disposable mask and put these into a plastic bag. Seal the bag and mark as asbestos. This bag will now need to be disposed of as asbestos waste, with your local authority being able to advise you what arrangements they have for the disposal of DIY asbestos waste.


Q: What are the rules for when I have to use a licensed contractor to work with asbestos containing materials in my building?

A: The new regulations state that a licensed asbestos contractor must be used if the asbestos containing material will absorb 30% of its weight of water or where an ‘Action level’ or ‘Control level’ may be exceeded. This means that a sample has to be sent to a laboratory for analysis before you know. In my view, the vast majority – if not all – asbestos containing products that will absorb 30% of their weight in water will have a density of less than 1000 kg/m3. This can easily be ascertained by dropping a piece in a bucket of water; if it floats for a while, then it is low density, and if it sinks then it is AC.


Q: I have some sprayed asbestos around some pipe work that it will only take me an hour or two to remove and it seems excessive to employ a licensed contractor. So what precautions should I take whilst I do the work myself?

A: Sprayed asbestos coatings are very friable and if worked on without the correct specialist tools will release large amounts of fibres. Even with the correct precautions and the specialist tools, the operative should still be wearing a full positive pressure head mask or suit. Since none of this is available on the DIY market, this work should not be undertaken on a DIY basis. The specialist licensed contractor must be employed.


Q: How can I tell if the product in my building is a product where a licensed asbestos contractor has to used?

A: This is sometimes not so easy without removing part of the product for analyses, but there are some ‘rules of thumb’ that can be used:


  • if the product has been used outside and has survived for a number of years, then it will be asbestos cement
  • if the product is moulded in shape (except for some half round pipe covers and column covers) then it will be asbestos cement
  • if the product was supplied after 1980 then it could be either asbestos free or asbestos cement, because the low density asbestos containing boards were withdrawn in the late 1970s
  • if the product was used for fire protection or thermal insulation, then it will have been low density (remember the 1980 date)  
  • all spray applications and lagging applications will be low density