Asbestos in Drinking Water

Asbestos is limited to 7  million fibers per liter (Mfl) under the Safe Drinking Water Act. According to the EPA those who drink water with higher than that amount over extended periods may face an increased risk for benign intestinal polyps. Another recent study has shown asbestos in drinking water could potentially lead to the risk of cancer, including peritoneal mesothelioma.

Dangers of Ingesting Asbestos
When asbestos is damaged or crushed, it does not become ordinary dust. Asbestos breaks into tiny fibers that are too small to see, feel, or taste. If you breathe or ingest asbestos fibers, you may increase the risk of contracting asbestos-related diseases. Ingested asbestos can cause peritoneal mesothelioma in the abdomen. Asbestos exposure can increase your risk of digestive system cancers, including colon cancer.

The latency period for asbestos diseases is typically between 20 to 50 years. No amount of asbestos is considered safe. Asbestos diseases are challenging to treat and impossible to cure.

How Does Asbestos End Up in Drinking Water?
Asbestos was widely used in the manufacture of cement pipes to create a strong, longer-lasting pipe. Asbestos pipes were first laid during the 1930s and were thought to be durable and corrosion resistant. They were expected to have an almost 70-year lifespan.

By the 1950s, however, regulations were put in place for asbestos piping for municipal water. New standards didn’t require older pipes to be removed or updated. As a result, many of these old pipes are still in the ground today. These older pipes have reached the end of their expected lifecycle, leading to more toxicity problems for municipalities. As early as the 1980s, some residents experienced the harmful risks of asbestos in the water supply.

Asbestos Found in Drinking-Water Supplies U.S.
In 1985, Woodstock, New York, experienced asbestos-related problems with the water service. The contamination had become so extensive that asbestos fibers clogged resident’s showerheads and faucets. Water supply tests evidenced that asbestos began leaching into the water as far back as 1976. Woodstock residents were cautioned to stop using the water, and they installed new pipes the following year.

In 2016, Devine, Texas citizens received a warning letter after higher-than-allowed asbestos levels were recorded in its water in the past year. Testing had been done periodically from January through July of 2016 and revealed asbestos levels of 14, 17, and 18 Mfls. Such levels were more than double the limits set by the EPA.

In California, Sonoma and Marin counties faced the possibility that asbestos and other toxins had entered their water supply after severe wildfires in October 2017. Extensive damage from the ravages of the wildfires exposed toxic pollutants in the burned zones. Rain was expected in the forecast, so officials worried that the dangerous materials would be washed down into local rivers and streams and eventually the public water supply.

Do you believe you were exposed to asbestos from local drinking water? Be sure to see your doctor for a medical examination to check for signs of an asbestos-related disease. Contact GPW for more information and a free consultation.

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“Post-Fire Water Quality Investigation; Analysis of Cause of Water contamination” Technical Memorandum No. 1 [Link]
“What Are U.S. Standards and Regulations for Asbestos Levels?” ATSDR [Link]
“Health Effects Asbestos” Minnesota Department of Health [Link]
“Asbestos Laws and Regulations” EPA [Link]