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Water pipe repair method could cause chemical exposure

Workers in North Carolina who deal with pipe repair may be concerned about potential threats to their health after a study revealed the potential for chemical exposure on the job. One of the most common procedures used to repair plastic water and sewer pipes, cured-in-place pipe repair, can emit plumes of organic compounds and vapors when cured with steam.

The pipe repair method requires workers to insert a fabric tube impregnated with plastic resins into a damaged or broken pipe. Once the tube is in place, an ultra-hot substance like boiling water, UV light or pressurized steam is passed through the tube. This "cures" the tube, producing a new, solid and unbroken plastic pipe. Because of the relative ease and efficiency of this method, it has become popular across the country when dealing with damaged water and sewer pipes.

Seven CIPP locations in Indiana and California, including sanitary sewer pipes and storm-water pipes, were studied by Purdue University researchers. While the plumes that come up from pipe repairs had long been thought to simply be steam, the researchers showed that they in fact contain endocrine disruptors and known carcinogens that may pose a danger on the job.

Because over 50 percent of water pipe repairs use this technology, the researchers urged the importance of further study to understand the possible impact of the chemical steam on workers who frequently come in contact with pipe repair projects. They also advised that pipe repair workers wear chemically resistant gloves and appropriate protective gear when repairing pipes.

Toxic exposure is one of the many serious dangers that workers can face on the job. Whether dealing with a known risk or an undiscovered chemical complication, workplace injuries from accidents, exposure, repetitive stress or other causes can lead to major costs. A workers' compensation lawyer can help injured workers pursue benefits to cover their medical bills and lost wages or other damages.

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