Assessment of asbestos in drinking water in Alexandria, Egypt

Journal of the Egyptian Public Health Association. 2006;81(3-4):181-98. [Link]

Hosny G, Akel M.

Environmental Health and Molecular Carcinogenesis Division, Department of Environmental Studies, Institute of Graduate Studies and Research, University of Alexandria, Alexandria, Egypt.


Over the past several years, the presence of fibrous asbestos particulates has been observed in a number of municipal water supplies throughout the USA, Canada, and several other regions all over the world. The possible health hazards which these fibers present have spurred a great deal of interest in the problems of detection and removal of the submicroscopic particulates in water. Asbestos is a group of fibrous metamorphic silicate minerals that is ubiquitous in the environment as a result of its extensive industrial use and the dissemination of fibers from natural sources. The health hazards associated with inhalation of asbestos in the occupational environment have long been recognized including asbestosis, bronchial carcinoma, malignant mesothelioma of the pleura and peritoneum, and possibly cancers of the gastrointestinal tract and larynx. It is introduced into water by the dissolution of asbestos-containing minerals and ores, and from industrial effluents, atmospheric pollution and erosion of asbestos-cement (A/C) pipes in the distribution systems of drinking water. In Alexandria, most of the pipes in the distribution systems of drinking water are asbestos-cement (A/C) pipe system. Drinking water samples (1 liter each) were collected in glass containers from different regions in Alexandria and filtered in cellulose filters (mixed cellulose ester type filters of pore size 0.2 mum) within less than 48 hours. Filters were allowed to dry, gold plated and scanned microscopically. Asbestos fibers were detected in all water samples collected from regions having A/C pipe drainage system. No fibers detected in regions, where the pipe distribution system was poly venyl pipe system or changed from A/C pipe to cast iron pipe system. The determination of asbestos fibers in drinking water of Alexandria should have particular concern because of the health hazards that might be associated with their presence.