Asbestos-cement (AC) pipes were once commonly used for water distribution and sewer systems, especially those in western North America. The hybrid material (often containing around 20 percent asbestos) was valued for its strength and resistance to corrosion, but concerns over asbestos-borne illnesses prompted many municipalities to replace asbestos-containing pipes by in the late 1980s and 1990s. While this material is no longer newly installed for water pipes, some of it still remains in place in water and sewage systems.
Transite and the Dawn of Asbestos-Cement Pipe
The material first hit the market in the 1920s, created by Johns-Manville and sold under the brand name “Transite.” Other companies sold similar water pipes under different brand names, but the name transite was broadly used in reference to pipes, boards, and other products containing a combination of concrete and asbestos. One of the largest manufacturers of AC pipes between the 1930 and up through the 1980s was CertainTeed, which continues to be a major player in the construction materials industry. Other AC pipe products include Flintkote Asbestos Cement Pipe, GAF Ruberoid Eternit Pressure Pipe, and Keene Ehret Durant Insulated Pipe.
By the 1950s, the use of AC pipes in municipal water systems had become standard. But since most of these were installed between the 1960s and 1980s – and they have a lifespan of roughly 60 years – those that remain are deteriorating and in need of replacement.
AC Pipe and the Safety of Drinking Water
One of the main concerns about the use of the known carcinogen asbestos in water pipes is exposure to fibers that have come loose from the pipes. When these fibers are swallowed or otherwise ingested, many scientists believe they can cause a rare but serious disease called peritoneal mesothelioma. This particularly aggressive form of cancer affects the peritoneum, a thin lining surrounding the abdomen, and accounts for less than 20 percent of mesothelioma diagnoses. While ingesting asbestos is believed to carry unnecessary hazards, it is well-established that breathing in airborne asbestos is the primary way in which all forms of mesothelioma are caused.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that AC pipes are a leading source of asbestos contamination in drinking water, although cases of mesothelioma caused by contaminated drinking would be challenging to prove, given the asbestos exposures that many people have sustained through airborne exposures.
AC Pipe and Mesothelioma Risks
Workers who manufactured, cut, and fabricated the pipes were among the most vulnerable to mesothelioma and other asbestos-related health risks, specifically when the fibers were released into the air and inhaled or carried home on clothing and inhaled by family members or other third parties. The dangerous cutting of asbestos-containing pipe occurred most often with the use of power saws (gas-powered or electric) and some times with the use of manual saws. It should be stressed that anyone working in a facility where AC materials were being produced or cut – from the workers handling the materials to the managers sitting at desks – may have been exposed, since the tiny fibers can become suspended in the air.
Additionally, workers who cut, install, and provide maintenance to the manufactured pipes also were (and still are) prone to exposure. However, workers who handle AC pipe these days are supposed to be supplied with protective gear and follow safety guidelines that weren’t in place when the material first went into use.
Cleanup and Removal
Much of the risk from AC pipes today is from the cleanup and removal of these substances, which can make the fibers “friable,” or in a form where they can be inhaled through the release of airborne asbestos fiber. The performance of asbestos abatement work is now heavily regulated by federal and state laws, with safety requirements pertaining to its exposure, removal, and disposal. However, there have been many instances where companies failed to follow these guidelines, resulting in worker exposure and subsequent (but often delayed) onset of illness many years later.
The experienced lawyers from MesoLawyersCare have recovered over $10 billion dollars for people diagnosed with mesothelioma. Our attorneys have successfully represented many people suffering from mesothelioma as the result of exposure to asbestos from AC pipe. For more information or a free consultation, fill out the form on this page, have a live chat now with one of our representative, or call us now.
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