Can People Still Be Exposed to Asbestos from Steam Pipes?

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Mesothelioma & Asbestos Published on June 28, 2021 and updated on March 15, 2022.

asbestos warning signAsbestos is a tough, durable mineral that is highly resistant to heat. These properties make it perfect for insulation, particularly insulating steam pipes, as these pipes hold steam that is kept at extreme temperatures. Asbestos-containing cement was often used to make steam pipes.

You may be surprised to learn asbestos-containing pipeline wrap has never officially been banned in the U.S., considering the life-threatening health risks of asbestos exposure. That means steam pipes may still be putting people at risk for asbestos exposure, such as if a pipe bursts or explodes and releases asbestos fibers into the air. In fact, one of the primary ways people may be exposed to asbestos is from asbestos insulation.

Below, learn more about the risks of asbestos-containing steam pipes and the history of this application of asbestos. If you were exposed to asbestos and diagnosed with related health problems, give The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl a call to discuss legal options. We may be able to recover compensation for the party or parties whose negligence caused your exposure to asbestos.

An initial consultation with one of our licensed Maryland mesothelioma attorneys is free of charge and there is no obligation to take legal action.

History of Asbestos Insulation in Steam Pipes

The use of asbestos started to really take off during the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s. Even back then, they were using it to insulate steam pipes and other machines, like turbines, boilers, kilns and ovens. Heat insulation that contained asbestos was first used in 1866.

Large cities likely still contain at least a small number of asbestos-insulated steam pipes. For example, the network of steam pipes beneath Manhattan dates back more than 100 years.

Despite studies showing strong links between asbestos exposure and cancer, even as far back as the 1930s, asbestos use was widespread until the 1970s. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned some asbestos-containing products but overturned those bans in 1990. The EPA chose to prohibit spray-on application of materials that had more than one percent asbestos. This applies to spraying materials onto buildings, structures, pipes and conduits.

Risks of Asbestos Exposure from Steam Pipes

How much of a risk of asbestos exposure is there from steam pipes that are underground? Should you have all the much concern?

The risk posed by steam pipes is probably very low. In fact, a steam pipe below Manhattan’s Flatiron district ruptured in 2018 and medical experts said the risk should be very small. However, those who lived in the area were asked to evacuate so testing could be done to determine if there was a need for asbestos remediation.

There was a steam pipe explosion in Baltimore in 2017 that may have exposed the public to asbestos. The presence of asbestos on some vehicles near the explosion was confirmed.

These explosions are not that common, but more explosions could occur because of wear and tear on old pipes. If they do, residents can take precautions to avoid exposure, as residents in New York City and Baltimore did.

You may think being exposed to a small amount is harmless. However, there really is no safe level of exposure to this mineral. Once it is inhaled, it can get stuck in the lining of the lungs, where it remains for decades.

Smokers should be on high alert after a steam pipe rupture, as their risk of asbestos-related health problems is greatly increased if they breathe in asbestos. Smoking does tremendous damage to the lungs and your body’s overall ability to heal. That means if you develop mesothelioma, your symptoms could be much worse because you are a smoker.

Are You a Victim of Asbestos? Give Us a Call to Discuss Legal Options

One of the most important decisions asbestos victims need to make is who will represent them as they take legal action. Not only can an attorney help victims pursue compensation, he or she may be able to connect the victim to doctors and support services.

At The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl, we have been helping asbestos victims for decades. We have taken on large corporations and recovered compensation for our clients.

There are no upfront fees or obligations for our services. Give us a call to learn more about how we may be able to assist you.

We are here to help. Call to schedule a free consultation. 410-907-3957