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St. Paul Workers' Compensation Attorney

Common pipe repair method exposes workers to chemicals

Municipal water and sewer departments in Minnesota can no longer assume that cured-in-place pipe repair methods do not pose a hazard to workers and citizens. A study of the technique conducted by researchers from Purdue University discovered that the process releases plumes of chemicals that could expose workers and perhaps the public to carcinogens.

The process involves inserting a resin-coated fabric tube into broken pipes and then curing the material with ultraviolet light, hot water or steam under pressure. Air samples taken during the steam-curing procedure revealed that the steam contained organic compounds and vapors that posed unknown health threats. An engineering professor who co-authored the study said that further testing was needed to determine safe exposure limits. At this time, no studies have examined what skin exposure of inhalation of the chemicals could do to workers. Throughout the country, 50 percent of pipe repairs depend on this technology.

Another engineering professor added that utilities and other companies possess no understanding of the what chemicals the pipe repair procedure could be producing. He said that workers should wear chemical-resisting gloves and immediately report any health problems that emerge after performing the pipe repair work.

Although commonly associated with injuries resulting from a workplace accident, workers' compensation benefits can also cover workers who become ill from toxic exposure. However, the nexus between an occupational disease and the workplace environment can sometimes be difficult to demonstrate, and as a result the employer or its insurer might dispute or deny the claim. This is why it might be advisable to have legal counsel throughout the process.

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