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Asbestos-covered pipes: know the risks

If you work for a construction company or own a home, you need to understand that the risk of being exposed to asbestos could be right underneath your own feet.

Asbestos has been used for several decades in pipes used in homes and buildings all across North Carolina. While asbestos piping initially proved to be strong, durable and intact, the lifespan of these materials does not last forever. Now it is very possible that asbestos pipes made and installed more than 50 years could be crumbling, cracking and deteriorating in such a way that could put people in danger of being exposed to toxic asbestos.

Asbestos was used in pipes for a number of reasons, including its fireproofing and insulation qualities. In some cases, the asbestos fibers were mixed in with cement used to make the pipes. In other cases, pipes were wrapped or coated in asbestos. No matter how asbestos was used in the manufacturing of pipes, it can still be released into the air when pipes start to break down or are disturbed during construction.

Another concern about asbestos pipes involves what is traveling through these pipes. In many cases, drinking water and air passes through potentially substandard pipes. Any contaminated material can easily be breathed in or ingested by people who have no reason to suspect that they are being exposed to dangerous chemicals.

We don't often pay much attention to the pipes in a building until something goes wrong. By then, unfortunately, the damage may have already been done. Asbestos abatement companies and property owners have a responsibility to remove asbestos if there is reason to believe it could pose a threat to residents and visitors. In the event that asbestos pipes were improperly removed or negligently left in place, victims of asbestos-related illnesses may have grounds to take action against those who failed to comply with strict asbestos-handling standards.

Source: InspectApedia.com, "Asbestos pipe insulation in buildings," accessed on March 12, 2015

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