Inconvenient truths

Chrysotile water pipes — no risk

Most drinking waters contain some asbestos fibres whether or not it is distributed through asbestos cement pipes.

This is because asbestos is widely found in the environment as a consequence of natural dissolution of asbestos-containing minerals.

The use of asbestos cement pipes in distribution systems can give rise to an increase in the numbers of asbestos fibres in drinking water, particularly immediately after installation.

A series of international reviews about the possible health risks associated with asbestos cement drinking water pipes concluded that there appears to be no concern for health of consumers receiving water through such pipes.

Asbestos fibres are not routinely monitored in drinking water because WHO considers that there is no credible evidence for such fibres posing a risk to health.

WHO says: “There is…no consistent, convincing evidence that ingested asbestos is hazardous to health, and it is concluded that there is no need to establish a guideline for asbestos in drinking-water.”

The Jamaican National Water Commission recently said the lifespan of the asbestos pipes on the island was almost 70 years. It said: «Most of the other pipes will give you 35 to 50 years… (few) other types of piping material will come close to the 70 years the asbestos cement pipe provides.”