Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada - In Regina, Saskatchewan, there is asbestos in the city's water pipes. But, according to officials and a microbiologist, the asbestos and cement mixture that forms the water pipes does not pose any health threat to residents.
The water is protected by a thin layer of slime produced by bacteria.
Neither the bacteria or asbestos are life-threatening.
For a National Research Council project, Dr. Roy Cullimore, a microbiologist from Regina, studied the water pipes and found a tiny universe teeming with bacteria.
Asbestos has been long known as a carcinogen and exposure to asbestos particles can lead to several different deadly diseases, with mesothelioma cancer chief among them. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that directly results from asbestos exposure. In most diagnosed cases, the individual came into contact with the toxic material while on the job.
The asbestos and concrete mixture from which Regina's water pipes are made from is just one of the many practical uses of the naturally occurring mineral. According to Dr. Cullimore, the reason why the water pipes were made from asbestos was because its natural properties. Asbestos was added to concrete for reinforcement, not only making the concrete stronger, but the water pipes themselves. This practice was commonly used during the heyday of asbestos manufacturing.
Dr. Cullimore spoke to News Talk 980 CJME and said that while studying the microbiology of the water pipes, he found that the slime coating acts as a protectant.
Essentially, the slime that the bacteria created draws out the asbestos from the concrete. From there, “the asbestos was actually then woven into a sheet by the action of the water moving over and then the bacteria coat the fibres with growth,” said Dr. Cullimore.
The slime keeps the asbestos in check, allowing the water to flow unobstructed. Removing the slime from inside the water pipes would actually be detrimental, whereby, asbestos particles would come into contact with the water. Breaking up the slime would break up the asbestos, and that is when asbestos becomes deadly.
Officials do stress that some asbestos fibers are in the water, but at such scant amounts, do not pose any health concerns.