Asbestos in Our Air and Water

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We have been aware of a link between asbestos exposure and cancer since the mid-1960s, however many of us are unaware that it isn’t possible to avoid the mineral entirely as it can be easily found in the air we breath and the water we drink – luckily, at very low levels.

Even though asbestos is a naturally occuring material, it isn’t biodegradable and doesn’t break down without human intervention. If asbestos is disturbed, it can release tiny fibres that can travel long distances in the air. If water or soil is contaminated by the fibres, it will remain there until they are unsettled and are released back into the air – and so, the cycle can start again. The cycle of fibre moving around the environment may never stop and in turn, may potentially affect human health on a small scale.

The characteristics of asbestos which were once the reasons it was so widely used, are now the characteristics that make it difficult to eliminate.

The safety of cement asbestos pipes has been commonly documented, looking at whether they are a health risk. After extensive testing of the water which passes through asbestos pipes, there was proof that a very small amount of the fibre was detected in the water, however this is because asbestos is already found in the environment. Similarly to asbestos fibres finding their way into soil and rivers, most studies have concluded that the fibres found in drinking water are only short fibres which are considered to contribute little, or no risk to our health.

Most epidemiological studies found no association with ingesting the water from cement asbestos pipes, and the health of the individual drinking it. Asbestos pipes could have more of a significant risk to our health if it became damaged or they were irresponsibly removed resulting in fibre being released into the air.

Is there anything we can do about this?

It seems to be the case that we can never fully escape the exposure of asbestos, even though scientists have reassured us that low levels cannot harm us. The mishandling and incorrect disposal of asbestos can’t help the conditions of our environment and will continue to contaminate our water and air with asbestos fibres. Human intervention isn’t usually needed unless cement asbestos pipes are damaged or you suspect you have found illegally disposed asbestos.

If you are worried about asbestos or suspect you may have some on your property, get in touch with us today and we can help.

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