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What we know as Cement Pipes and that are so commonly used in building construction, are actually made from a combination of asbestos paste and cement compressed by steel rollers. The resulting material is a laminated material of great strength and density. Moreover, it has a consistent carrying capacity and is resistant to bursting from the pressure from the fluid within irrespective of the number of years that it remains installed and without regard to the quality of water it carries.
Many developed countries such as the European Union, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, and New Zealand have banned use of Cement Pipes for health and safety reasons. In the US, it continues to be used in construction and is a major cause for concern. It is estimated that nearly 400,000 miles of asbestos-contaminated cement pipes carry water to taps all over the country. Drinking water that flows from these pipes would pose a health hazard, but it is technically difficult to assess the level of asbestos fiber that it releases into the water. One reason for this is that most waters contain asbestos fibers from natural dissolution in the environment.
A survey conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services in 1982 across 538 U.S. cities found 65 percent had asbestos in their water with 9 percent having levels of asbestos that were dangerous, according to health experts. Epidemiologists are studying the effect in laboratory animals of ingesting asbestos fibers in food and drinking water, especially from newly laid cement pipes.
Of particular concern is the safety of people who cut and install and replace these pipes, including plumbers and pipe-fitters. They are constantly exposed to the dust particles containing asbestos that are released into the air they breathe as they remove old pipes or use asbestos mud to fill in cracks and elbows on pipes.
Asbestos cement pipes are used for:
Renovating buildings dating prior to 1980s is happening all over but what of the risks associated with this task? On a micro level, the same concerns arise when removing old pipes made of cement and asbestos. Water and sewer lines, drainage, and ventilation all of these used such pipes; the insulation around the pipes and the material used to fill cracks and elbows on pipes, all had asbestos in them. Professionals directly handling cement pipes, cisterns, and viaducts are in grave danger.
Most developed countries consider asbestos a hazardous waste and dispose it in landfill sites. Some recycle it and make harmless silicate glass. Asbestos and asbestos-containing waste is also used to make porcelain stoneware tiles, porous single-fired wall tiles, and ceramic bricks.
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