Electricians and Asbestos Exposure

Electricians install, maintain and repair wiring systems and power generating equipment throughout various industrial and residential locations. Electricians aboard Navy and commercial ships in shipyards and at sea also did similar work.

Asbestos, a fireproofing ingredient in building materials, was used by electricians all over the United States.

Buildings constructed between 1920 and 1980 are most likely to contain asbestos materials. Electricians who built structures during these years are most at risk for mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer. This is because of the long latency period associated with the disease. Electricians exposed to asbestos 10 to 50 years ago may just now start to experience mesothelioma symptoms.

Asbestos Exposure in the Electrical Industry

Because of its fire-resistant qualities, asbestos was a popular choice for manufacturers of electrical equipment. Many of the products that electricians encountered on a daily basis, such as insulation and conduit, contained asbestos. They also drilled into and grinded out parts of switch panels, wiring motors, circuit boards, switch gear, and breaker boxes. Many of these products may have contained Bakelite and other molded asbestos materials. Drilling and sanding asbestos parts, like asbestos-containing arc chutes, could have released toxic dust into what were often cramped and confined workspaces for electricians.

Electricians also had increased risk of asbestos exposure because of their close contact with other trades that commonly used asbestos materials. These materials include, but are not limited to drywall, plaster, joint compounds, transite boards, asbestos ceiling tiles, HVAC equipment, insulated turbines and heating units. Drilling into walls to install new wiring and mount equipment could have exposed electricians to preexisting asbestos material.

Common Electric Products Containing Asbestos

Several asbestos products used by electricians are similar to those used in the construction industry. Some of the products handled by electricians include:

  • Drywall
  • Joint compound
  • Spackling material
  • Cement siding
  • Electrical ducts
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Electric wiring insulation
  • Textured paints
  • Decorative plaster
  • Switchgear
  • Circuit breakers