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Common repair method for water pipes may be hazardous

North Carolina construction workers who regularly repair water pipes using the cured-in-place method might not know that this process could be more hazardous than traditionally thought. Researchers believe that, based on air test studies, the plumes that are released during the process can contain organic vapors that are known carcinogens.

Researchers conducted air tests at seven different locations where water pipes were repaired using the cured-in-place method. Five of the pipes were storm-water pipe installations and two were sewer-pipe installations. The tests found that the plumes, which were traditionally thought to be steam, were actually chemical and contained endocrine disruptors in addition to the carcinogens. These results contradicted the assumptions that this water pipe repair method was safe for workers, the public and the environment.

The cured-in-place method, which involves inserting a resin-impregnated fabric tube into the damaged water pipe and curing it, is used in 50 percent of all repairs. However, the researchers noted that they were not aware of any studies that determined what exposure limit for these particular chemicals was safe for workers and the public. Further, they also were unaware of any studies that showed what type of impact this method had on the environment.

Those who suffer illnesses or other health complications after working around chemicals that are later found to be hazardous may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. In some cases, however, an employer might claim that the disease was unrelated to working conditions but instead was caused by a worker's lifestyle or other external factor. In such an event, the worker might want to have legal assistance when appealing the denial.

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