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Asbestos-containing pipes delay construction on a New York trail

Construction on New York’s Empire State Trail was recently delayed after the discovery of asbestos-containing pipes. Construction of the trail was expected to be completed by the end of 2020, at which time it would create a continuous 750-mile route across the state. Once completed, it will be the longest multi-use state trail in the country.

Part of the trail's construction includes the installation of new drainage lines. As construction teams worked on the drainage lines in Hudson, New York, they disturbed some old pipes that were made with asbestos-cement. Some pieces of those old pipes may have made it to a nearby lot where excess materials were being stored.

A subcontractor has been hired to properly remove the asbestos-containing materials from the site. Once that is complete, construction is expected to continue.

How did the asbestos-containing pipes get there?

The asbestos-cement pipes were originally installed when that area was being developed in the 1920s and 1930s. At that time, asbestos-cement pipes were used for stormwater and sewage drains.

Until the 1980s, asbestos was added to various materials to improve a product’s strength, insulation or fire-resistance. Cement and concrete products were just a few of the products that were made with asbestos. Concrete workers and other construction workers are some of the most likely to encounter asbestos on the job.

Without proper testing, it can be tough to tell the difference between cement or concrete that includes asbestos and cement or concrete that does not. This is because the asbestos fibers are evenly distributed throughout the hardened mixture. They will not sick out of the mix, even when the product is broken.

However, broken cement or concrete can release the fibers into the air, making it easy for someone to inhale or ingest them. Once the fibers are in someone’s body, they typically stay there. When inside the body, asbestos fibers can cause internal scarring or cancer to develop over time.

Because of the potential health consequences of asbestos exposure, it can be safest to leave asbestos-containing products undisturbed. However, products that are damaged, deteriorated or already disturbed might need to be removed. The removal process is best handled by experienced professionals who have been appropriately trained to handle this toxic mineral.

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