Is there Asbestos in your drinking water?

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Cranleigh Civic Society was made aware recently by a concerned resident that some of the cold water supply pipes in our area are made from asbestos cement. The very word asbestos strikes fear into many people’s hearts. We contacted Thames Water who confirmed that indeed 29% of all the water supply pipes in Cranleigh are made from asbestos cement. We’re desperately searching for answers as to whether we need be concerned for the health of the village’s residents, so have written to all the relevant authorities below:

Thames Water

Drinking Water Inspectorate, Defra

Waverley Borough Council

Anne Milton, MP

Health and Safety Executive

Public Health England


Sue Penniston at DWI stated she believed there was no risk to public health, although she confirmed that they are still basing their advice on ingestion risk from old AC drinking water supply pipes from out of date World Health Organisation (WHO) reports dated 2003 and 2006. These reports concentrated on pulmonary risk, and barely mentioned non-pulmonary risk. Interestingly a later WHO report in 2014 has had the clause removed that had previously stated “no consistent evidence that ingested asbestos is hazardous to health”.

HSE responded that this doesn’t fall within their remit and removal of redundant buried asbestos cement pipes is not something they are obliged to do, and suggested we raise the matter with the local Environmental Health Department as they may be able to reassure the society about the health risks.  They believe asbestos cement is a relatively low risk asbestos product and that there is no additional risk created by leaving it buried in the ground when it is no longer required for carrying water. Cranleigh Civic Society believes that there could be a risk to the workmen digging in the same area, unaware of its presence.

The Environmental Health Department at Waverley Borough Council has responded to say they are satisfied with the advice DWI have given them on this subject.

We continue to enquire about this very troubling issue and will update the website when we have more information.

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5 thoughts on “Is there Asbestos in your drinking water?”

  1. The answer is probably not.

    I think :

    There are various types of asbestos, the most hazardous of which is Brown asbestos which is highly carcinogenic if the fibres become airborn.

    The risk from White asbestos eg as corrugated sheeting used for roofing and cladding on many industrial/farm buildings is low , although if demolished or moved , it needs to be disposed of safely by trained contractors.

    I guess Thames Water pipes are made from this type.

    Old lead water pipes and the lead used in paint up until about the late 1950’s pose a far greater risk

    So apparently do burnt toast and roast potatoes

    1. You are quite wrong about crysotile (popularly called “white asbestos”). The “low risk” myth was put around by the asbestos industry in the 1980s, but current World Health Organisation published guidance is:

      “Exposure to asbestos, including chrysotile, causes cancer of the lung, larynx and ovary, mesothelioma (a cancer of the pleural and peritoneal linings) and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs). No threshold has been identified for the carcinogenic risk of asbestos, including chrysotile.” source:

      Cranleigh Civic Society has asked the authorities to investigate nonpulmonary GIT and peritoneal risk by ingestion.

      We are talking about a serious issue here, and it is not helpful to trivialise this by making it analogous to “burnt toast and roast potatoes”.

      1. I now think no more housing development should occur until Thames Water has changed all the asbestos pipes and residents can be absolutely sure we will not suffer asbestos contamination from our tap water .

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