Electricians and Mesothelioma

Electricians Get Mesothelioma from Exposure to Asbestos

You are an electrician. Asbestos exposure was and is a problem in your field.

Asbestos was used in electrical systems to contain heat and minimize fire risk. It causes electricians to develop mesothelioma.

There are many asbestos-containing products or materials you might have come into contact with while on the job before the 1990s. They would have included:

  • Circuit breakers containing arc chutes and phase barriers

  • Blow-out cages

  • Phenolic resin

  • Fabric-sheathed insulated cables

You were most likely to encounter the first three items in high-voltage applications found in factories and institutional buildings, power plants and substations, and aboard ships.

You were most likely to encounter the last item in household electrical goods repair shops or in residences and offices built in the first half of the 20th century.

Asbestos in Your Lungs

Jostling an asbestos-containing electrical system component during installation, maintenance or replacement can cause small, dust-sized particles of the mineral to come loose.Once loose, asbestos enters the air and stays there for a long time. If you breathe it, it can enter your lungs. If it enters your lungs, it will almost surely remain trapped there for the rest of your life.

Working on asbestos-containing electrical systems with the aid of either a power or manual screwdriver can provide all the disturbance force necessary to raise a small cloud of asbestos dust.

The same can happen if you use wrenches, cable cutters, strippers, a splicer, crimpers or sandpaper.

Drilling into walls from before the 1990s in order to install electrical conduit is another way asbestos is let loose into the air.

Working near someone else who is working on asbestos-containing electrical equipment can expose both of you to asbestos in the air.

Even worse is working in a confined space shoulder-to-shoulder with other trades engaged in the removal of pre-1990s wallboard, ceiling and floor tiles, windows, insulation material, plumbing and more because those materials also harbored asbestos.

Your Union’s Warnings About Asbestos

Labor unions and trade groups geared around the interests of electrical workers have long been troubled by asbestos.

Some have said that the easiest way to protect against asbestos exposure is to use a well-made respirator when working.

Also helpful is the wearing of protective gloves. Asbestos can get inside you by swallowing it. Gloves keep asbestos off of fingers you might put in your mouth for whatever reason.

In no event should an electrical worker ever use a brush, whisk broom, floor broom, shop vacuum or compressed air to clear dust from electrical components and connections. These tools cause asbestos from those components and connections to scatter far and wide and create more potential to be inhaled.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is the collective-bargaining organization that represents many electrical workers. Its 750,000 U.S. and Canadian members hail from the fields of construction, telecommunications, broadcasting, utilities and manufacturing, among others.