WE HAVE LONG BEEN CONCERNED ABOUT DRINKING WATER PIPES – THEY KEEP BURSTING AND SOME ARE MADE OF ASBESTOS CEMENT

Cranleigh Society members have done their best to persuade Waverley Borough Council (WBC) and Thames Water (TW) to renew our drinking water pipes.

We believe this should be planned and completed before the new housing is attached to the network for two reasons – the pipes are 50-70 yrs old and getting close to the end of their lives Due to this frequent  bursts occur causing major disruption . The latest guidelines for new housing also state that the water pressure must be higher than the previous norm.

In addition, you may have seen that Cranleigh Society member Adrian Clarke has recently worked with the Financial Times (article dated 30-March-19) concerning the asbestos cement used in around 29% of Cranleigh’s water supply pipes, some of which contains the more worrying “blue” type.

So the World Health Organisation (WHO) must look into the problem and are looking for funds so that they can. Our MP Anne Milton is aware of the potential issue, it having been raised during the regular ‘flood forums’ that she has established.

WBC have done some investigation and have summarised the situation – Tom Horwood, the CEO of WBC stated “This whole issue keeps coming back to the established view of the lack of harm of ingested asbestos, which we would all like reviewed.”  

Like many other health concerns there is no evidence that stands up at the moment to say there is definitely a problem with ingested asbestos from the drinking water, or indeed that there isn’t. At present, no one knows.

To put you in the picture – The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) told Cranleigh Society late in 2016 that, under clause 79 of The Water Industry 1991 (as amended), it is our local authority’s responsibility to risk assess this issue, and HSE gave us help in preparing the hazard report we sent to WBC on 29-Jan-17. The Drinking Water Inspectorate’s (DWI) (and hence Thames Water’s) advice to WBC was based on the following paragraph taken from the 1996 WHO report:

“Although the carcinogenicity of inhaled asbestos is well established, there is no conclusive evidence that ingested asbestos is carcinogenic (1,3,16). ….”

But the animal tests were done to assess the risk of chrysotile, amosite and tremolite asbestos contaminated talc used as fillers in processed foods in the USA in the 1960s and early 1970s.  Crocidolite (blue) asbestos, the worst one and the one we are concerned about in Cranleigh, was not tested because it is not a contaminant in North American talc deposits.  Also, the asbestos tested was ground down (milled) into mainly sub-microscopic particles in the same machines as would be used for processing talc, so they didn’t contain complete whole fibres as would be the case from bursts in water pipes.  If you’ve got a bit of spare time, Google the reports (references 17, 18 and 19 in the WHO 1996 report) and follow the trail to check out what I just stated.  This would suggest that the 1996 WHO report is irrelevant. No “blue” asbestos was looked for.

A few months ago, in 2018, the latest WHO statement came out (WHO information is always based on their latest update): The link is –

https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/asbestos-elimination-of-asbestos-related-diseases

“All forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans. Exposure to asbestos causes cancer of the lung, larynx, and ovaries, and also mesothelioma (a cancer of the pleural and peritoneal linings).”

Our concern is risk of peritoneal mesothelioma from crocidolite (blue) asbestos, and this is what we asked WBC to risk assess.

The good thing is that as these failing asbestos cement pipes in Cranleigh are really so old, Thames Water is gradually having to replace them all anyway, so it is only a temporary problem.  Other areas in the UK may be at greater risk, particularly Suffolk/Norfolk and Cornwall, where a much higher percentage of asbestos cement pipes per head of population were installed, and where lower population density and less aggressive soil pH could extend the free fibre risk over a longer period.

Asbestos refers to six unique minerals — chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite — belonging to the serpentine and amphibole families. … Crocidolite (blue asbestos) was commonly used to insulate steam engines. It was also used in some spray-on coatings, pipe insulation, plastics and cement products.  Serpentine is nottoxic rock. It sometimes contains the fibrous mineral chrysotile asbestos,

Crocidolite

The notes below were found on a US web site – https://www.mesotheliomaguide.com/mesothelioma/peritoneal/
How Does Peritoneal Mesothelioma Develop?
  • Asbestos fibers are ingested. This can happen after being inhaled, coughed up, and then swallowed.
  • The body attempts to filter and remove them, but the sharp fibers can lodge into the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum). The fibers irritate the peritoneum and can cause genetic damage to cells.
  • Genetic damage can keep cells from receiving important signals about when to stop replicating. This causes unchecked cell division and the formation of a malignant tumor. It can take decades for this process to happen.
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