Industry experts say workers face increased danger from asbestos-related illness after laws governing removal of the substance were relaxed this week.

The changes, published on Thursday, mean textured coatings containing asbestos, such as Artex, will be taken off the Health and Safety Executive’s list of materials that only licensed contractors can remove. Critics have condemned the step as a cost cutting measure, and said workers and the public have been placed at risk.

Terry Jago, chief executive of the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association, said: “The people that will suffer will be workers who are repeatedly exposed to asbestos without proper protection. Families who get contractors in to remove textured coatings will also unknowingly expose themselves.”