Asbestos cement pipes were used in the water industry until the mid-1980’s when they were banned from use.

Although asbestos cement pipes still exist in our water networks, the water industry works to ensure that they pose no health risk to the water supply. They also ensure that maintenance, replacement and disposal of all pipes and infrastructure, which may contain asbestos, is carried out safely.

The effects of asbestos in the water supply have been studied extensively and results show that there is no elevated risk of asbestos-related diseases from drinking or using water that has been supplied through asbestos cement pipes.

This finding is consistent across the World Health Organisation (WHO), the National Health and Medical Research Council Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) and the Department of Health in each Australian State.

Risks associated with asbestos relate to airborne fibres. Fibres from pipes can become airborne when a pipe is undergoing works, decommissioning or is damaged. However, all relevant regulations are adhered to when handling asbestos cement pipes under these circumstances, to protect and ensure the health of employees and the public.

These regulations are in accordance with state legislation and national Codes of Practice and Guidance for the management of asbestos in the occupational environment.

In recent years WSAA has been involved with research carried out in Canada and the US designed to ensure that guideline levels around asbestos cement pipes are appropriate. WSAA has developed good practice guidelines for assessing and managing the risk from asbestos cement pipes through maintenance, deterioration, renewal and disposal to protect health and safety of both workers and the public.

In 2022, the Australian Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency published best practice guidelines for asbestos cement pipes to assist organisations providing water and/or sewerage services eliminate or minimise the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres. A link to the guidelines is here

 

Resources

Asbestos in drinking water

Background document for development of WHO Guidelines for drinking-water quality Asbestos in drinking-water…