Understanding The Basics: What Is Asbestos Cement Pipe?

If you live in an older home, it is possible that your pipes could contain asbestos cement. Back in the day, asbestos was a common choice for constructing pipes because it was economical, durable, and could endure extreme pressure and high temperatures.

So, what is asbestos cement pipe? They were commonly used from the early to mid-1900s due to their affordability, strength, and ability to resist fire. However, they contain a hazardous mineral called asbestos that has been associated with severe health issues like mesothelioma and lung cancer.

In this article, we will uncover all you need to know about asbestos cement pipes, from their history and composition to their potential dangers. So, let’s get started!

An Overview Of Asbestos Mineral

Asbestos is a mineral that naturally occurs as long and thin fibrous crystals. This mineral has gained a lot of popularity over the years. Thanks to its remarkable electrical and thermal insulation qualities, as well as its ability to withstand fire, heat, and corrosion.

Asbestos is generally classified into two main categories. Such as:

  1. Serpentine Asbestos: It encompasses only one type of asbestos known as chrysotile. Chrysotile is the most common type of asbestos because of its flexibility.
  2. Amphibole Asbestos: It contains an array of asbestos varieties, including amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite. Compared to serpentine fibers, amphibole fibers are weaker because they are long and needle-like.

Asbestos MineralDo you know asbestos has been useful to humans for many decades? Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, nations including Sri Lanka, Brazil, Russia, Kazakhstan, China, India, and Thailand have used this mineral extensively in the manufacture of a variety of goods, including:

  •   Water tanks
  •   Vinyl flooring
  •   Brake pads for cars
  •   Cement products
  •   Fireproof blankets
  •   Floor tiles
  •   Insulation boards
  •   Automotive gaskets
  •   Ceiling tiles
  •   Pipes

However, according to a study, 40% of workers who were exposed to asbestos had health problems like:

  •   Lung neoplasms
  •   Ovarian cancer
  •   Pleural Plaques
  •   Mesothelioma
  •   Asbestosis
  •   Pleurisy

Thus, in an effort to protect public health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attempted to outlaw the use of asbestos on August 25, 1989. In recent years, 66 nations have outlawed the use of asbestos due to potential health concerns.

What Is Asbestos Cement Pipe?

In the late 1930s, asbestos cement pipe was a widespread option for water supply and drainage systems. You might have heard it referred to as an AC pipe. It is made by creating a slurry out of Portland cement, water, and 10%–20% asbestos fibers.

The slurry is then placed into a mold that looks like a pipe. Once the slurry has been poured, it is left to cure with low-pressure steam at 80°C until it solidifies, enabling the asbestos fibers to merge with the cement.

This process creates a sturdy and long-lasting pipe that has the strength to withstand high pressure and temperature.What Is Asbestos Cement Pipe

Why Was Asbestos Cement Pipe Popular in the Past?

If you want to learn more about the many factors that led to the widespread use of asbestos cement pipes, see the list below:

i. Easily Available

In a survey, it was discovered that the four main nations producing asbestos fibers for the world market were Kazakhstan, Russia, China, and Brazil. As a result, asbestos cement pipes became readily available and employed in construction around the world.

ii. Resistant To Chemical Substances

Asbestos cement pipes can resist chemicals, which makes them appropriate for conveying water in different environments such as acidic, alkaline, and corrosive soils. The pipes can tolerate a broad range of chemical pollutants, making the water they deliver safe to use.

iii. Budget-friendly

Asbestos cement pipes were relatively inexpensive to produce and install compared to other pipe materials, such as cast iron or steel. This made it a popular choice for many municipalities.

iv. Durability

Asbestos cement pipes had an incredibly long lifespan, often exceeding 60 years. They were highly durable and resistant to corrosion, decay, and the effects of weathering.

v. Enables Effective Fluid Transfer

Asbestos cement pipes had a smooth inner surface, which ensured that water flowed through them with little resistance. This made them highly efficient in moving water through the water supply system, reducing friction losses and maximizing flow capacity.

vi. Easy To Install

Asbestos cement pipes were light and easy to handle, which made their installation process quite easy.

vii. Fire Resistance

Asbestos cement pipes are fire-resistant because asbestos fibers have great heat resistance qualities. This quality was especially crucial in industries that involved high-temperature processes.

viii. Resistance To Rust And Corrosion

Asbestos cement pipes are generally resistant to corrosion. That’s because asbestos fibers do not react with moisture, chemicals, or other elements frequently present in water and wastewater systems.

ix. Inherent Insulating Capacity

Asbestos fibers were useful in reducing heat transfer and moisture buildup inside the pipes due to their natural insulating characteristics. This characteristic made asbestos cement pipes ideal for use while transporting hot water.

What Are The Problems Associated With Using Asbestos Cement Pipes?

Below we have listed several drawbacks of using asbestos cement pipes.

1. Contamination Of Water

When asbestos cement pipes break down, dangerous fibers are released that can contaminate the water. The contamination happens when the pipes rust or break, causing the fibers to leak into the water and damage people’s health if used for drinking, cooking, taking showers, or other activities.

2. Damage To The Environment

Ecosystems may suffer if asbestos fibers are dispersed in the environment and end up in the soil or surrounding water bodies. Since asbestos is resistant to deterioration, it lasts a very long time in the environment.

In addition, the presence of asbestos waste in landfills or improper disposal sites can also lead to contamination of surrounding areas.

3. Contamination Of Air Particles

Asbestos cement pipes can degrade over time, resulting in the emission of asbestos fibers into the atmosphere or water. This could be the result of things like normal wear and tear, impacts, or improper handling during installation or maintenance.

As soon as they are spread, the fibers have the potential to float in the air and endanger the safety of nearby people.

4. Poses Significant Health Risks

Asbestos cement pipes have a tendency to deteriorate over time, releasing asbestos fibers into the air or water. If you inhale these small fibers, they can become lodged in the tissue of your lungs and cause long-term damage.

There are a number of illnesses that you could develop if you are exposed to asbestos fiber, including:

  •   Asbestosis is a long-term lung condition caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. The fibers cause inflammation and scarring of the lung tissue, leading to breathing difficulties and decreased lung function.
  •   Since the 1930s, people who have been exposed to asbestos fibers for a long time have a higher chance of developing  lung cancer. Smokers who are exposed to asbestos have a significantly increased risk of developing lung cancer, per a study.
  •   Mesothelioma is a malignant cancer that primarily impacts the lining of the heart, lungs, or abdomen. It is the most common illness caused by asbestos exposure.
  •   Other respiratory diseases like bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pleural plaques can also be brought on by asbestos exposure.

What Appropriate Alternatives Are Available For Asbestos Cement Pipe?

More than 50 countries have outlawed asbestos cement pipe because it poses numerous serious risks to both human health and the environment. As a result, people today use various secure alternatives to asbestos pipes, which are discussed in the table below.


Type of Pipe Benefits Approximate Price Range
PVC Pipe They are lightweight and easy to install $10 – $40 per foot
High-density polyethylene Pipe They are flexible and resistant to rust $20 – $80 per foot
Plastic (FRP) Pipe They are lightweight and low maintenance $20-$190 per foot
Concrete Pipe They are strong and resistant to chemical and environmental factors $40 – $150 per foot
Steel Pipe They are durable, resistant to corrosion and high pressure $50 – $150 per foot
Copper Pipe They are resistant to moisture and long-lasting $50 – $200 per foot
Polyethylene Pipe They are flexible and resistant to chemicals $10 – $50 per foot


Cast Iron Pipe They are durable and can handle high pressure $60 – $150 per foot

FAQ Section

To learn more about asbestos cement pipes, read the following frequently asked questions.

Q: What should I do if I have asbestos cement pipes in my home?

If you have asbestos cement pipes in your home, it is best to leave them alone and try not to remove or disturb them. If you suspect that they are damaged, you should consult a plumber immediately.

Q: Are asbestos cement pipes still in use today?

Many nations have stopped using asbestos cement pipelines because of safety issues. However, it is believed that 2 million tons of asbestos are still used annually throughout the world.

Q: How can I identify asbestos cement pipes?

It could be challenging for you to recognize asbestos cement pipes without professional help. However, you should look out for some visual traits, such as a gray or pale tint, a brittle texture, and the presence of visible microfibers on broken ends of the pipe.

Final Words

In conclusion, asbestos cement pipes were widely used in construction and infrastructure projects in the past. But they were banned due to the serious health risks associated with asbestos exposure.

So it is important to be aware of the potential risks of asbestos cement pipes, especially if you own a building that was constructed before the 1980s. If you suspect that your property has asbestos cement pipes, it is best to consult a professional to manage the situation safely and effectively.

Michael is the owner of Michael's Plumbing. He has experience over 15 years solved thousands of plumbing issues. 100% customer satisfaction made him best in this sector. Finally he decided to share his skills, experience and techniques through this PipesYard blog. Hopefully each and every post of this blog will be helpful for people seeking piping help.

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