Asbestos In The Pipes Of Old Homes?
Asbestos is by no means an invention of the modern world. It is a naturally occurring mineral that was used as far back as 4000 B.C. The crystalline fibres are very durable and resistant to heat as well as many chemicals. Some of the earliest usages of asbestos fibres include wicks, an additive in pottery, and in shrouds used to wrap the deads.
The major commercialization of Asbestos took place during the late 19th century. Asbestos mines were popping up around the globe and the fibres were widely used in many different materials. It was prided as one of the most cost-efficient insulators available due to its high resistance to heat, chemicals, and electricity. Over the next century, it would be widely used in the UK and US in many commercial and residential applications.
Asbestos Rises In The UK After WW2
In the UK, asbestos saw a significant increase in usage following WW2. Reconstruction efforts in the region were costly and asbestos was believed to be a reliable solution. By 1973, Britain was importing more than 183,000 tonnes of asbestos. It was used in the production of cement, insulation boards, and many other building materials.
As asbestos became more common so did mesothelioma. In 1985, two of the worst types of asbestos were banned in the UK. And finally, in 1999, the most commonly used type of asbestos, chrysotile, was banned as well. But that doesn't mean there is still plenty of asbestos left behind. It is still found in old building materials all of the time and continues to cause serious health problems.
One of the many problems faced today is completely separating asbestos from water systems. Asbestos was very commonly used in pipes between the 1960s and 1990s. Many of those pipes are still in use today. Trained experts can identify these pipes and ideally replace them to prevent the risk of water contamination or of inhaling airborne asbestos fibres.
How Was Asbestos Used In Pipes?
There are two methods that incorporate asbestos into the manufacturing or usage of pipes. The first is where asbestos is used directly in the production of the pipe walls. This is most common with cement pipes. The second method is where asbestos is applied to the outside of the pipe generally for the purpose of insulation. Asbestos can protect the pipes from freezing, friction, corrosion, and other undesirable elements.
Asbestos is a non-combustible material. This made it a common solution for pipes and gas lines that needed to be fireproof. By adding asbestos to cement or plastics it was possible to create pipe walls that were very smooth and produced very little friction. This lowered the energy needed to pump water through the pipes and only added to the list of benefits.
Asbestos was even added to some steel pipes in certain situations. The added asbestos lowered the overall electrical conductivity of the pipe. Any pipelines used around wiring or other sources of electricity may include asbestos additives.
The primary risk associated with asbestos comes from inhaling the coarse, crystalline fibres. This actually makes asbestos used on the outside of pipes as insulation more dangerous to homeowners. Disturbing the insulation could cause breakage that releases fibres into the air.
What To Do If You Believe There Is Asbestos In Your Pipes?
Some of the health concerns linked with asbestos include mesothelioma, pleural plaques, and asbestosis. It's very important to remove all materials containing asbestos from your home. However, it's not a recommended DIY job. Disturbing asbestos can release airborne fibres that are responsible for the various health concerns listed above. Only a trained professional wearing the appropriate safety equipment should interact with asbestos-containing materials.