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Repairing water pipes with common method may be hazardous

Maryland construction workers who regularly repair water pipes as part of their jobs may often use a common method known as the cured-in-place repair method. While this method was traditionally thought to be safe for workers, research suggests that it could cause exposure to harmful chemicals, including known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

For the cured-in-place method, a resin-impregnated fabric tube is inserted into the broken water pipe. Workers then use pressurized steam, ultraviolet light or hot water to cure the fabric tube. During this process, a large amount of what looks like steam is released into the air. However, researchers found that this steam actually contained hazardous chemicals that could potentially be dangerous to the workers, the public and the environment. Just how hazardous, however, was not known due to a lack of studies on the subject. For example, researchers said they were unaware of what the safe exposure limits were and what impacts this vapor had on the environment.

Until the health impacts to workers are known, workers are suggested to wear thick chemically-resistant gloves to reduce potential chemical exposure. Further, they should be prepared to report signs of illness or any strange odors to the employer and to health officials.

Whether a worker is repairing pipes, placing concrete slabs or working on scaffolding, construction work is particularly dangerous. Not only are workers at risk for physical injuries, but they could suffer negative health impacts if they are exposed to chemicals and hazardous materials. However, those who are harmed in such a manner might be eligible to apply for workers' compensation benefits that could include the payment or reimbursement of medical expenses. An attorney can provide more information on the filing process.

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