Asbestos Waste Pipes – Everything You need to Know

Asbestos was widely used before the 1990s in residential & commercial construction and many older homes could still contain this dangerous substance including in the piping. Asbestos cement pipes (also known as Transite) had many favourable properties and were widely used for sewage, gas, and liquid transportation. 

Below, I provide a guide on asbestos waste pipes including where they were used, how to identify them, and their potential dangers.

Understanding Asbestos Waste Pipes

Asbestos waste pipes are actually a type of asbestos cement pipe where cement was mixed with asbestos and moulded into circular pipe sections. It was commonly used in the following locations:

  • Sewer systems.
  • Air ducts and vents in heating systems.
  • Waste pipes for gas systems.
  • Industrial waste pipe lines.
  • Irrigation pipes.
  • Telephone ducts.
  • Drain traps and gutters.

As you can see, asbestos waste pipes were mainly used in industry, commercial, and public services projects but households could contain asbestos waste pipes for their heating systems, plumbing, and guttering. 

Why Was Asbestos Used to Create Waste Pipes?

Once asbestos was discovered it was mined extensively and used in a huge range of construction products from the early 1900s until the 1990s. Asbestos waste pipes offered the following benefits[1]:

  • Easy to work with and handle.
  • Relatively affordable compared to metal pipes.
  • Great resistance to high temperatures and corrosion.
  • Resistant to wear and tear.

The availability of asbestos, the ease of which it could be mixed with cement, and the positive properties it had made it a great choice for construction projects. The pipes were also especially durable and they could have an expected life of over 70 years. 

What Do Asbestos Waste Pipes Look Like?

Most asbestos waste pipes are underground and part of things like sewage systems so they can be incredibly difficult to identify.

However, things like asbestos soil pipes (which are used to transport residential sewage from toilets and sinks) are visible and they typically run vertical from your underground drainage to the top of your property, eventually connecting with the horizontal roof gutters.

Asbestos waste pipes usually have a white/grey colouration and a rough, textured surface. You will usually notice an excess of mould and natural growths too as these things can thrive on the asbestos. 

To be sure of the presence of asbestos in your waste pipes, conducting a test is the only water-tight solution. You can either get an asbestos surveyor round to take a sample or send one of yourself using an asbestos testing kit. These kits are safe to use and you get the results back from the certified lab in no time.

Are Asbestos Waste Pipes Still Common in the UK?

Properties built after 1999 should not contain any asbestos waste pipes as this was when the UK Government[2] banned its use. 

However, if your property was built before 1999 there is a chance that it could have asbestos waste pipes, either directly in your drainage system, or underground connecting to the sewer mains. The likelihood of asbestos cement pipes increase the older your property is with the most likely candidates being built in the 1960s and 1970s.

You should be able to tell relatively quickly if your drainage system contains asbestos as modern guttering and waste pipes are made from either plastic or metal and are usually black and smooth compared to the characteristic white/grey coarse surface of asbestos waste pipes.

How Dangerous Are Asbestos Waste Pipes?

Asbestos waste pipes underground pose less risk as there is far less chance that any fibres could become airborne. However, above ground waste pipes can pose a potential health risk depending on their quality.

If the pipes are damaged and showing signs of degradation, there is more risk of asbestos exposure and in these instances you should contact a professional asbestos removal service.


[1] – Asbestos Institute – What Were the Advantages of Asbestos

[2] – UK GOV – Asbestos: General Information

The content on this page/article was last updated on the 6th December 2023 by our team and was reviewed and fact checked by William Wright, DipNEBOSH on the 6th December 2023.

William is a qualified health & safety consultant who holds NEBOSH & IOSH certifications.