Recently Hillary Clinton announced a plan to remediate lead pipes from our nation’s infrastructure. A necessary plan to be sure, however there is another dangerous pipe throughout the United States – asbestos cement (AC) pipe, also called Transite. This pipe was primarily manufactured and sold from the 1950s through the early 1990s, though it was used as early as 1931 – especially in the western US. This pipe is comprised of a mixture of Portland cement and asbestos fibers. It was, and is, used for a variety of applications, including drainage systems, water works systems, sewage drains, and gas lines.
Originally the pipe lifespan was considered 70 years, meaning many miles of it is now deteriorating from age and, in some cases, from environmental factors. Many cities have already replaced the pipe and in the next few years strategic replacement planning will need to be implemented for those that have not replaced it.
As it breaks down, pipe used in water systems can leach asbestos fibers into water leading to potentially serious health hazards. Ingesting water from pipes with loose asbestos fibers can cause occurrences of peritoneal mesothelioma. Those who worked in manufacturing the pipe, in repairing it, or in removing it are subject to inhaling the asbestos dust. This can lead to the development of asbestos-related injuries. It is of the utmost importance to have safety measures in place to prevent airborne fibers and to provide protective equipment for workers.
Asbestos, the “miracle” mineral of the last century – strong, fireproof, flexible, with so many uses – has become a deadly legacy for many.