Asbestos is a nasty substance that was widely used in many construction materials prior to the 1970s. Revered for its fire resistance properties it was used in everything from flooring, walls, insulation, roofing materials, and more. If you own a home that was built prior to the 1970s, there is a good chance that asbestos was used. This means that when making household repairs like on your plumbing, or undertaking renovation projects, extra caution needs to be exercised. Here is your guide to asbestos and plumbing.
Why Asbestos Might Be A Concern
When it comes to asbestos and plumbing there are several reasons why asbestos may be of concern. For starters, since it was used in just about everything it could be in the walls and flooring surrounding your plumbing. If your plumber has to tear open the wall or floor to get to the problem, there could be an increased risk of exposure. Asbestos was also used directly in the manufacturing of plumbing pipes, starting in the late 1800s. If your pipes are old, asbestos could have been used in 1 of 2 ways: within the material that constructed the pipe walls, or as the insulation on the outside used to protect exposed pipes.
There are several reasons why asbestos was used in plumbing pipes.
- Asbestos was cheap and inexpensive.
- It blended well with other materials.
- Asbestos is non-corrosive.
- It lowered electrical conductivity in steel pipes, making it safer around direct currents and static charges.
The Cause For Concern
Despite all of the wonderful reasons why asbestos was used, it came with inherent risk. Health risks of asbestos exposure were suspected for quite some time, however, it wasn’t until the EPA and OSHA took a direct approach to its elimination in new building materials and set the guidelines for proper remediation.
We now know that asbestos can lead to severe health problems. Two of the most common health concerns with exposure to asbestos include:
- Asbestosis – a severe lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos particles. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and include shortness of breath, persistent dry cough, chest tightness, weight loss, and clubbed fingers or toes. Asbestosis usually doesn’t show up until 10-40 years after exposure and is usually the result of long term exposure.
- Mesothelioma – is aggressive lung cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs. It is usually diagnosed later in life also after prolonged exposure.
Both asbestosis and mesothelioma are devastating and have a high disability and mortality rate. The people who are at the highest risk for either of these diseases are those who work closely with the material. This includes plumbers, who due to the nature of some repairs have a greater risk of exposure.
Asbestos and Plumbing – What You Need to Know
It is important to note, that just because asbestos is in some of the building materials used in your home, it does not pose a direct threat. If left intact and undisturbed, there is no immediate cause for concern. Asbestos becomes dangerous once it becomes airborne. This is because the small fibers can easily be inhaled, which can lead to the health concerns mentioned above.
When plumbing repairs need to be done or if you are planning a renovation project and you own an older home, always hire a professional plumber. The reason being is that they are properly trained on how to handle asbestos. The state of California has certain guidelines that need to be adhered to when dealing with asbestos. These guidelines are in place to protect your health and safety and that of the public and the workers who come in contact with asbestos. Some of these guidelines include:
- Proper sealing of the location to prevent contamination of other areas.
- Workers must wear the proper gear including respirators and protective layers of clothing.
- Building materials contaminated with asbestos that is being removed must be soaked in water to prevent asbestos particles from becoming airborne.
When it comes to asbestos and plumbing it is always best to practice caution. Proper remediation is required to protect health and safety and also avoid costly penalties. To learn more about asbestos and plumbing contact Courtesy Plumbing today!