A brief about Asbestos cement Pipes
Asbestos cement pipe, also commonly referred to as transited pipe, was constructed from cement and asbestos fibers. It was highly resistant to corrosion and was widely used in drainage systems and gas lines. Government and private enterprises use asbestos-cement pipes for such applications as fresh and seawater mains, gas mains, sewerage, mining operations, agriculture, electrical cables, venting flues, etc.
History of Asbestos Pipes
In the early 1900’s when asbestos cement pipe was first developed by reinforcing concrete with asbestos, the benefits outweighed the risks for many manufacturers. Composed of basic raw materials such as asbestos fiber, Portland cement and silica sand, asbestos cement pipe was highly resistant to corrosion, wear, chemical and biological reaction and extremes of temperature and moisture. The asbestos-cement combination also created a pipe relatively light in weight compared to metallic pipe materials.
Utility companies favored asbestos cement pipes because asbestos gave the pipes increased strength so they could operate under higher pressures. Also, asbestos cement pipe was affordable, durable and easy to work with.
In the 1940s, asbestos cement pipes started to be used for drinking water distribution and wastewater collection systems, and it was estimated to be used in as much as 20 percent of all distribution piping at that time. Associated pipe fitting products (i.e. couplings and ring) were also manufactured from asbestos cement. The primary markets for asbestos cement pipe included the water distribution market, sewer market and irrigation market.
Asbestos Cement Pipe Health Risks
Asbestos can be inhaled once it is disturbed and the microscopic particles are released into the air. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Workers who handled the following types of pipes could have been exposed to asbestos on a daily basis:
- Air duct – for heating and cooling systems
- Building sewer pipe – from house to sewer or septic tank
- Electrical conduit – electrical wire and cable service
- Gas vent pipe – venting gas appliances
- Irrigation pipe – for parks, golf courses, and permanent installation for sprinkler and waste-recovery systems
- Plumbing vent pipe – venting soil and waste lines
- Pressure pipe – water supply and distribution mains
- Sewer pipe – gravity and force mains
- Telephone ducts – telephone wire and cable service
- Vent pipe – ventilation of fumes, dust and gases
- Waste pipe – industrial waste lines
By 1980, it was estimated that more than 2 million miles of A/C pipe were in use worldwide – with more than 300,000 miles in the United States alone. Around this time, many utility companies finally stopped using asbestos cement pipes because of health concerns.