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New chemical hazard discovered with water pipe repairs

Chemical safety is important in many work environments, and Kentucky residents might like to know about a study involving water pipe repair. A procedure often used to repair water pipes might pose hazards for workers, the public and the environment.

Purdue University researchers conducted a study involving air tests after pipe repairs using the cured-in-place pipe repair process. With CIPP repairs, a tube is inserted into a damaged pipe to create a new plastic pipe through curing with ultraviolet light, hot water or pressurized steam. The study looked at storm-water pipe and sanitary sewer-pipe installations. Previously, it was assumed that CIPP was safe. It was thought that steam occurred when using the CIPP method, but this steam was actually chemical plumes. The plumes contain organic vapors and compounds, which include endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. CIPP technology is said to be used in about half of all U.S. water pipe repairs.

The researchers recommend that CIPP be reevaluated for risks to understand the impact exposure to these chemicals could have. Changes might be needed to protect workers and the public from chemical exposure. There is currently no standard for what level of exposure to CIPP chemicals is safe. To protect workers, chemically resistant gloves should be used. Illnesses or odors near CIPP sites should also be reported to health officials.

Stories like this demonstrate that technological advances sometimes get ahead of safety efforts. This means that even workers who think they are being safe could be exposed to hazardous materials without being aware. However, workers' compensation benefits might be available to cover occupational diseases. People who have become ill due to workplace toxic exposure might want to have legal assistance when preparing and filing a claim.

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