Is There Asbestos in Pipe Connectors?

Is There Asbestos in Pipe Connectors?

From the late 1980s until the government banned it, asbestos was a primary component in construction products, including pipe works. The naturally occurring mineral was ideal for pipe making and wrapping, as its lightweight fibers added tensile strength to pipes of all sizes. Besides being non-corrosive, asbestos threads gave pipes' inner walls a smooth surface, reducing friction and lowering pumping efforts.

Moreover, the toxic material is also non-combustible, making it ideal for fireproofing fuel lines in ships and factories. Because of asbestos's non-corrosive qualities, pipes made of asbestos cement survived direct burial and contact with rust-causing minerals in soils compared to pipes made of other materials. Asbestos additives reduce electrical conductivity, making steel pipes safer around direct current and static charges. Furthermore, asbestos was chemically inert and easily blended with other pipe-making materials. Pipes often needed shaping and bending to form complex pathways and networks between points to transport:

  • liquids
  • gasses
  • electrical lines

A piping network must also be airtight and watertight, allowing for pressure release or removal of residual materials at specific points. It required flexible parts that were made more resistant by adding asbestos, including components such as:

  • connectors
  • elbows
  • couplings
  • gaskets
  • valves
  • flanges
  • fittings

Asbestos improved heat and chemical resistance, so it was primarily used in connectors for pressurized and heated pipes. When piping transports liquids or gases, leaks may occur at the connection points. Hence, asbestos-containing gaskets, packings, and fittings were popular in creating airtight and watertight seals at these points. Asbestos was also a common ingredient in adhesives and sealants, often used at these connection points in conjunction with flanges, elbows, and valves. Adhesives that may contain asbestos fibers include:

  • plumbers' putty
  • pipe joint compound
  • primer
  • cement
  • glue
  • Teflon tape

Any piping that required a strong seal was most likely made with asbestos adhesives, especially in industrial applications. Thanks to their durability and heat resistance, asbestos pipe adhesives were also used in:

  • boilers
  • chimneys
  • furnaces
  • kilns
  • stoves
  • heating systems
  • air conditioning systems

Polyvinyl chloride pipes, commonly called PVC pipes, are considered safe alternatives to asbestos cement pipes. However, they may contain asbestos due to chlorine used in manufacturing. According to environmental statistics, approximately 18% of America's chlorine is still made using asbestos diaphragms. It is how asbestos can leach into chlorine and, consequently, into PVC pipes. Exposure to asbestos in pipes can be a health risk to people through:

  • drinking water transported in cement pipes
  • occupations
  • DIY projects at home

Getting Professional Help Is Essential In An Domestic Setting

To protect their family's health, homeowners of older houses should consider that no exposure to microscopic asbestos fibers is safe and remain educated on their household's risks. A thorough asbestos inspection led by licensed professionals could reveal potential exposure sources, including piping. If small-scale home improvements are underway, please consider following our safe removal methods when handling asbestos.

Why Should I Test Products in My Home for Asbestos?

It is often impossible to tell whether asbestos is embedded in a material, as the fibers are too small to be observed with the naked eye. Exposure to asbestos is responsible for serious respiratory conditions, so thorough testing is required to ensure your home is asbestos-free.