Can drinking water in contact with asbestos be harmful to health?

We know that asbestos is dangerous for the respiratory tract. But what about the oral route? ANSES is looking into the matter.

Can asbestos be harmful to health if it comes in contact with something that is taken by mouth? here is the question posed by ANSES. Of course, it is not about eating asbestos, the idea seems preposterous. But rather to see what impact can have its contact with water for example.

Because, as we know, many pipes continue to operate with this material, widely used before being banned in 1997, and since recognized to be harmful to the respiratory tract, with an associated risk of lung cancer.

It is estimated that 4% of the French public water distribution network for human consumption (EDCH) in France still consists of asbestos-cement. Most of the time, these pipes are covered with scale, which prevents the water from coming into direct contact with the asbestos, but if the pipe is damaged, the zero risk does not exist.

Without certainty, a potential link with digestive cancers

Ingestion remains a mystery when it comes to asbestos. Two Italian studies were published in 2016 and 2017, they focused on the daily consumption of drinking water and the possibility of digestive cancers that could be linked to it. But they have methodological limitations, notes ANSES, before examining all the studies carried out to date on this subject.

Without absolute certainty, the Anses still states: “The existence of signals suggesting the possibility of an association between the ingestion of asbestos and three specific digestive cancers has been underlined. cancers of the esophagus, stomach and colon“, found in greater numbers among workers in contact with asbestos. Further epidemiological surveillance and studies should be carried out on the issue.

Source: A first review of the literature on the possible danger of ingesting asbestos, Anses, November 10, 2021.

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