Asbestos in drinking water

There's no consistent, convincing evidence that asbestos ingested through drinking water is harmful to your health.

Asbestos in water pipes

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibre that was historically used to make products strong, long lasting and fire-resistant. Asbestos may be found in asbestos-cement pipes that carry drinking water. Asbestos-cement pipes were used in water distribution systems across Canada between the 1940's and 1960's. The use of asbestos-cement pipes has been largely discontinued since the 1970's, however, they remain in use in various drinking water distribution systems across Canada.

Asbestos in drinking water

Asbestos fibres may be released into drinking water sources from:

  • runoff of mining tailings
  • improperly disposed contaminated household wastes
  • stream and groundwater contact with asbestos-bearing bedrock

Standard water treatment can effectively remove these asbestos fibres from drinking water supplies.

Asbestos fibres may also be released from asbestos-cement pipes that carry drinking water from the treatment plant into your home.

Health effects of asbestos in drinking water

Health Canada and the World Health Organization have concluded that there is no consistent, convincing evidence that asbestos ingested through water is harmful to your health. If you drink water containing asbestos fibres, you eliminate the fibres, mostly through feces. For this reason, Health Canada has not established drinking water guidelines for asbestos.

Your exposure to asbestos from water

Your risk of exposure to airborne asbestos from tap water is very low.

Research has shown very low percentages of asbestos fibres transferring into the air from humidifiers or showers.

If you think there is asbestos in your home, you can hire a qualified professional to test for asbestos before beginning any renovation or building work.

In many areas, utility companies must follow strict regulations when working with different types of asbestos. Contact your local water utility if you have any questions about asbestos-cement pipe projects.

For more information on asbestos, visit or the World Health Organizations website.

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Organization: Health Canada
Date published: 2021

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