Pipefitters often had to install asbestos cement pipe for sewer, water or chemical piping. Handling asbestos cement pipe put these workers at risk for asbestos exposure and, over time, asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma. So, why was asbestos used in cement pipes, and how dangerous was it?
In the early 1900s when asbestos cement pipe was first developed by reinforcing concrete with asbestos, the benefits outweighed the risks for many manufacturers. Composed of basic raw materials such as asbestos fiber, Portland cement and silica sand, asbestos cement pipe was highly resistant to corrosion, wear, chemical and biological reaction and extremes of temperature and moisture. The asbestos-cement combination also created a pipe relatively light in weight compared to metallic pipe materials.
Utility companies favored asbestos cement pipes because asbestos gave the pipes increased strength so they could operate under higher pressures. Also, asbestos cement pipe was affordable, durable and easy to work with.
In the 1940s, asbestos cement pipes started to be used for drinking water distribution and wastewater collection systems, and it was estimated to be used in as much as 20 percent of all distribution piping at that time. Associated pipe fitting products (i.e. couplings and ring) were also manufactured from asbestos cement. The primary markets for asbestos cement pipe included the water distribution market, sewer market and irrigation market.
Asbestos can be inhaled once it is disturbed and the microscopic particles are released into the air. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Workers who handled the following types of pipes could have been exposed to asbestos on a daily basis:
By 1980, it was estimated that more than 2 million miles of A/C pipe were in use worldwide – with more than 300,000 miles in the United States alone. Around this time, many utility companies finally stopped using asbestos cement pipes because of health concerns.
Johns Manville is one company that openly used asbestos for years. Its brand of asbestos boards and pipes, Transite, was created in 1929. The following corporations have been documented as using asbestos in their cement pipes.
Our mesothelioma law firm has recovered billions in verdicts and settlements on behalf of thousands of clients throughout the United States. One recent success story involved a $3 million verdict for a New York pipefitter’s family. The pipefitter spent years repairing Crane manufactured valves with asbestos gaskets and packing materials.
For more information about asbestos exposure, mesothelioma and how Simmons Hanly Conroy can help you or your family get the justice you deserve, contact us today.