Water Pollution caused by Asbestos - Inorganic Chemicals

Throughout history, human innovation has led to new uses of our environment’s natural products in order to improve our lives. Unfortunately, sometimes these well-intentioned innovations are discovered to cause more harm than good down the road. Asbestos fits into this category well.

What is Asbestos in Water?
What are the potential risks caused by Asbestos in Water?
What are methods of Water filtration and protection from Asbestos?

Asbestos is an inclusive term that refers to six naturally occurring, fibrous minerals that are resistant to heat as well as many chemicals. Not long ago, the nature of these minerals made asbestos seem like a perfect resource for many practical purposes, leading to its widespread use in home insulation and household appliances.

Yet today the adverse health effects caused by asbestos exposure are well known and numerous legal regulations of the contaminant have been created as a result. However, while you might think having your home inspected for asbestos before moving in will protect you from this substance’s ill effects, many of us are still exposed to lesser-known sources of these minerals every day. 

While certain forms and uses of the contaminant are banned, asbestos is still used today in:

  • Car parts
  • Cement
  • Floor/ceiling tiles
  • Roofing
  • Fire-resistant textiles

The industrial use of asbestos for manufacture introduces the minerals to drinking water as a contaminant. Production of asbestos-containing products creates asbestos-containing waste.

Disposal of this industrial waste as well as the eventual disposal of asbestos based products release the contaminant into the environment, leading to its introduction to water supplies. Disturbingly, more direct contamination occurs when water and asbestos are immediately introduced by way of water distribution systems themselves. A/C pipes, or asbestos cement pipes, were widely used in the building of water distribution systems throughout the 20th century, before the dangers of asbestos exposure were known. Though knowledge of the contaminant’s harmful potential lead to a general cease of A/C pipe use in the 1980’s, many of the implemented structures still exist and are of use today.  After decades of use, the walls of these asbestos-containing pipes are worn from erosion, allowing the harmful contaminant to dissipate into the water that flows through them.

What are the potential risks caused by Asbestos – Inorganic Chemicals in Water Supply?

While airborne asbestos exposure is known to cause respiratory system inflammation as well as many cancers such as lung, throat, kidney, gastro-intestinal, and skin cancers, the effects of asbestos ingestion through drinking water are less understood. This method of exposure has received less scientific attention, leaving studies that have examined the health effects of asbestos-contaminated water ingestion formally inconclusive.

Further, the long-term nature of the conditions that likely result from asbestos ingestion makes their development difficult to observe through scientific study. Though this side of the issue lacks the breadth of research necessary to affirm concrete effects, research suggests that asbestos exposure through water is also linked to the development of various cancers.  Despite the incomplete research concerning the ingestion of asbestos-contaminated water, asbestos is a known carcinogen and any exposure to the contaminant is assumingly risky and unadvised. Check out this fact-sheet from the National Cancer Institute for more details about asbestos’ classification as a carcinogen –

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/asbestos/asbestos-fact-sheet

Benefits of Water filtration and protection from Asbestos – Inorganic Chemicals

The best way to protect your body from asbestos’ potential harms is to proactively limit your exposure. Filtering your water as well as checking contamination levels of your supply is a simple way to reduce your overall asbestos exposure. Water suppliers are required by the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor asbestos potency and hold their product to a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) standard of 7 million fibers per liter (MFL), yet no level of asbestos exposure is considered harmless. While suppliers are legally obligated to inform customers if asbestos contamination exceeds MCL, you can contact your supplier to find out exactly how present the contaminant is in your supply.

Fortunately, asbestos is relatively easily removed from water by filtration and various filtration systems are effective in removing the contaminant. Carbon and activated carbon filters are both approved for asbestos removal. These filtration systems are available at a low cost and are widely available. Carbon and activated carbon filters are available as pitchers and faucet-mount systems for easy everyday use. Reverse osmosis filtration systems are also effective in removing asbestos, though they run at a higher price than carbon-based systems. Find out more about your local water supply here: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water .

Please determine the best filtration option for your needs in order to keep your water, and yourself, healthy. Using water filters at home or at institutions can easily do water filtration for all uses. Water filtration helps to protect from serious waterborne problems or risks to health.