Aging Infrastructure: Asbestos in Water Pipes

You’ve heard about asbestos in the air – what about asbestos fibres in the water?

Just as the physical properties of asbestos – it is fire resistant, corrosion resistant and nearly indestructible – made it seem like the ideal construction material for both residential and industrial buildings; those same longwearing qualities made it seem like a good bet for plumbing too. Asbestos mixed with concrete (A/C) is a very strong, durable material and it became very commonly used for water pipes throughout North America.

  • In Canada it is estimated that A/C pipes are used in about 19 percent of public water systems.

Now, for several decades that material should remain intact and as such it is considered safe and should not pose a risk to anyone. But – there’s a time limit on all construction materials and when it comes to A/C that lifespan is 50 to 70 years, depending on the volume of water usage and other conditions.

  • That’s why many people are now sounding the alarm. The bulk of those A/C water pipes were installed in the 1950’s and 1960’s, meaning the clock is now ticking towards the end of their practical lifespan.

The Risk
As the pipes break down naturally over time and require repairs, many are concerned that the asbestos content may not be known or that repairs may not be done properly, releasing those deadly fibres into homes and institutions. There is concern that they may even end up in drinking water and that water will leach from the degraded pipes. Pipe failures will only increase over time, contaminating ground water too.

A Canadian study done in the late 1980’s found a correlation between increased incidence of certain cancers (including stomach cancer) and the presence of asbestos in drinking water from deteriorating pipes.

  • Two more decades have passed – is anything being done?

In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has established strict guidelines for the handling of asbestos cement by workers – but as history shows, people don’t always follow the rules. Maximum contaminant levels of asbestos have been set in both Canada and the United States and we can only hope that public watchdogs will continue to be vigilant about this issue.

In Your Home?
In addition to public water systems, many older homes (built before the mid-1980’s) feature A/C or other asbestos containing materials in plumbing, where you wouldn’t expect to find it, including,

  • pipe insulation
  • pipe chasing
  • boiler and furnace insulation
  • among many other places!

Let GS Help
We can help. Our experienced technicians offer professional, certified asbestos removal and asbestos remediation services to help you deal with your environmental issues and help to ensure the continued good health of your family.

In the Toronto area contact at (416) 818-9414. Contact us for a quote today.

Featured in Mike Holmes’ magazine, HGTV’s Income Properties, W Network’s Love It Or List It and chosen by as “Best Toronto Asbestos Removal Company” based on customer ratings and reviews, GreenStream Environmental Services are fully-certified, trusted and insured professionals in the removal and disposal of commercial, industrial, institutional and residential asbestos, vermiculite and mould (hazardous and non-hazardous). Providing emergency service 24/7/365 for all of Toronto and the GTA (North York, Mississauga, Markham, Brampton, Scarborough, Ajax, Oshawa, and beyond) GreenStream has over 40 combined years of experience serving clients such as the City of Toronto, the Toronto District School Board and many more. For a free estimate in Toronto, the GTA and Southern Ontario, call today at 416-818-9414. You’ll be glad you did.

GreenStream Environmental Inc. specializes in the Inspection, Remediation, and Safe Removal of Asbestos and Mould, both hazardous and non-hazardous.
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