“Asbestos in Cistern Water”

1980:118: Millette

EPA Environ. Research Brief. USEPA-ORD, February 1980 4pp.


No doubt exists that exposure to inhaled asbestos fibers significantly increases the risk of cancer and pleural mesothelioma, especially among those who smoke. Higher incidence rates of peritoneal mesothelioma, gastric, kidney, and color cancer among those occupationally exposed to airborne asbestos suggest that ingested asbestos may be a hazard because many inhaled asbestos particles are cleared from the respiratory tract and swallowed. While some studies of people drinking water containing asbestos have shown no increases in cancer rates, the results possibly might be caused by the long latency period between exposure and onset of disease.1 2 One study of residents around San Francisco, where asbestos concentrations in drinking water ranged up to 36 million fibers per liter, did show a statistically significant association between asbestos levels in the drinking water and cancers of the digestive tract.3

In recent year, a number of sources for asbestos fibers in drinking water have been identified.4 For example, the Particulate Analysis Group of the Health Effects Research Laboratory (HERL) in Cincinnati found that cisterns which collect water from asbestos-cement tile roofing materials contain high concentrations of chrysotile asbestos fibers.

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