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Water pipe repairs could be hazardous to workers

According to researchers, a common water pipe repair method used by Pennsylvania construction workers could be hazardous. The method, called the cured-in-place method, releases a plume of what was thought to be steam during the curation process. However, air test studies found that these plumes may actually contain known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

The cured-in-place water pipe repair method requires workers to place a fabric tube that has been impregnated with resin into the damaged pipe. Pressurized steam, hot water or ultraviolet light is then used to cure the resin. During this process, a plume is released into the air. Once the curation is complete, a new plastic pipe is formed. This method is used for a variety of different water pipes and is used in about 50 percent of all water pipe repairs around the country.

Researchers conducted air tests at seven different locations where the cured-in-place water pipe repair method was being used. After discovering the possible organic vapors and compounds that are created during this repair process, researchers noted that companies and utilities utilizing these methods did not actually know or understand what chemicals were being emitted. Further, there were no known studies that showed what exposure levels for workers were safe.

On-the-job chemical exposures can leave employees with serious illnesses, some of which can be life-threatening. If it can be determined that toxic exposure caused an employee to become ill, then workers' compensation benefits might be available. As it is often difficult to demonstrate a nexus between a disease and workplace conditions, however, claimants might want to have the assistance of counsel throughout the process.

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