Thames Water reassures Cranleigh residents asbestos cement water pipes pose NO health risk

Authorities have sought to reassure Cranleigh residents their drinking water remains safe despite concerns about asbestos cement water pipes.

Cranleigh Civic Society (CCS) says 29% of the village’s drinking water is supplied by pipes comprised of old asbestos cement pipes and held a public meeting to discuss the matter last month.

Both the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) and Thames Water say there is no reason for concern.

A spokesman for DWI said: “The DWI has responded to CCS to advise them guidance on the need for standards in the case of asbestos comes from the World Health Organisation who have reviewed the evidence base and concluded that there is no requirement to set a standard for asbestos in drinking water.”

A spokesman for Thames Water added: “We are tested vigorously on the quality of our water, which ranks among the best in the country and world.

«There is absolutely no reason for concern for any of our customers, in Cranleigh or in any part of our region. This is a view supported by our regulator the DWI and the WHO.”

The spokesman also said asbestos cement pipes have been widely used for drinking water distribution and there are thousands of kilometres to be found all over the world.

A spokesman for the CCS said: “We have asked the DWI three times if there is any risk from ingesting asbestos fibres from the old pipes, and each time they have prevaricated and refused to answer the question with a simple ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.

“They keep saying that there is no evidence to show that there is a problem but that is our point. There is no evidence to say ingesting it is safe.

“There is no evidence either way and that is why we approached the DWI and asked them to carry out a study to see if Cranleigh residents are at risk.»

“We did this in the form of a formal ‘risk assessment’ in compliance with the Health and Safety Act 1974.

“Remember Cranleigh has more than 29% of its drinking water supply pipes made from old asbestos cement, compared to the south east of England percentage of 2%, and we are concerned Cranleigh has a unique health risk which needs to be urgently investigated.

“In 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that all asbestos is bad, and that it should be eradicated.”

‘No risk to public health’

In a letter sent to CCS by DWI, Sue Pennison, principal inspector, said: “We have sought views from Public Health England and the World Health Organisation who have the knowledge, expertise and review processes in place to review relevant evidence and conclude upon the risks to health presented by a wide range of chemicals.

«I have explained, on current evidence, the World Health Organisation has conclude that there is no requirement to set a health based guideline value for asbestos in drinking water.

“We have also stated that should further evidence become available by way of peer reviewed science or advice from recognised health bodies or toxicologists and relates to ingestion of asbestos [not inhalation] which contradicts this we will review this position.”

Thames Water has around 792km of asbestos cement pipes out of a network of 31,500km water mains. In the UK, the use of asbestos cement pipes was common during the 1970s and 1980s.

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