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Asbestos is a key component to asbestos cement, otherwise known as transite. Asbestos cement is a mixture of chrysotile fibers (white asbestos) and cement, forming a variety of asbestos products. When working with or coming into contact with these products, workers and consumers are at risk of exposure. Popular transite products include asbestos cement roofing sheets and corrugated roofing, asbestos cement wall cladding, asbestos cement flues, asbestos cement pipes (AC pipes), asbestos gutters and more.

01. Products With Asbestos

Asbestos and Asbestos Cement

Asbestos cement products were largely popular throughout the mid-1900s, particularly with piping, but also with an array of roofing materials and other building materials. Transite was respected for being easy to handle, strong, resistant to corrosion and having low friction. AC pipes were used for water, sewage systems, drainage pipes and storm drainage systems, withstanding corrosion from sulfides and soil. These products could also drop operating costs, as water flowed seamlessly through the smooth, low-friction material.

With recognition that asbestos was a hazardous material, production and use of asbestos cement dwindled during the late 1900s. However, the lifespan of transite is around 70 years, meaning many asbestos cement products are just now beginning to experience surface corrosion and deterioration.

02. Asbestos Exposure Concerns

Asbestos Cement and Asbestos Exposure Concerns

Currently, one of the largest concerns regarding transite and asbestos exposure is with those that worked in asbestos cement manufacturing plants. Most plants used chrysotile asbestos, the most popular form of the mineral, though some also used crocidolite, which is thought to be the most dangerous form of asbestos.

Recent studies have looked into the rate of lung cancer, malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases in former asbestos cement manufacturer workers and found that risks were heightened for those working with crocidolite. However, across the board, workers and their families experienced a large number of mesothelioma cases – their families from secondhand exposure when asbestos fibers were brought home on their clothing.

In addition to those that manufactured asbestos cement materials, others are at risk as AC piping, AC sheets and other transite products near the end of their lifespan and begin to corrode. Deterioration of the once-popular AC pipes is determined by a number of factors and extensive monitoring is necessary to properly recognize, handle and dispose of asbestos materials that are damaged and likely releasing carcinogenic fibers into the air.

There are a number of occupations with a risk of exposure from asbestos cement.

At-Risk Occupations
  • Former asbestos cement manufacturers
  • Roofers
  • Siding installers
  • Flooring installers
  • Demolition crews
  • Plumbers, pipefitters and boilermakers
  • Shipyard workers and dockworkers
  • Renovation teams
  • Foundation contractors
  • Bricklayers and masons

The general public is at risk in situations like pipes exploding under pressure, aged asbestos cement roofs being replaced or damaged from weather and demolition projects tearing down building walls.

The concerns around exposure from asbestos cement products further stresses the importance of addressing asbestos-containing materials as soon as possible and conducting risk assessments for older AC materials. Workers maintaining the high-risk occupations listed above are often required to go through training to recognize and safely handle asbestos, though are often required to bring in a certified contractor to ensure that the material is handled and disposed of safely, preventing harmful exposure.

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