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Phone Company Workers

When the average American thinks of someone who works for a phone company, they may not associate them with health risks that could lead to a deadly disease. Working for a phone company may not be commonly thought of as a “dangerous” occupation. In the past, however, it very much was – all because these workers were unknowingly exposed to a microscopic, toxic fiber that could increase risk of a fatal cancer called mesothelioma.

Regardless of whether they were installers, equipment engineers, line technicians, construction workers, job supervisors or account reps, all telephone employees had the potential for possible inhalation of deadly fibers from products that were all too common to the phone industry.

Asbestos Materials Commonly Used by Phone Company Workers

To make matters worse, asbestos-containing fireproofing and insulation materials were often used as building materials. These central offices are large structures that contain multiple switching systems, transmission and signaling equipment, cable vaults, terminals, conduit lines, underground plants, switchboards and other equipment necessary to provide service to customers in nearby geographic areas. In addition to potential exposure to asbestos-containing building materials, phone company staff working in central offices were subject to asbestos exposure from a variety of materials specific to their industry, including:

  • Asbestos-braided sleeving, which is cylindrical shaped sleeving/tubing used with fuses and over cable for protection from heat or fire.
  • Asbestos cable hole covers, which is fireproof material used in cable slots between floor and wall coverings of central offices. Cable hole covers acted as a barrier for spread of fire from various floors and underground vaults.
  • Asbestos cement conduit, aka transite pipe, which was used to cover and protect underground lines and cables from moisture deterioration and ground water.
  • Asbestos-covered cable, which is composed of woven material for use in areas subject to extreme heat or fire potential.
  • Asbestos paper and millboard, used in manufacture of insulator, resistors or spacers in various telecommunication equipment.
  • Cable bags, which were canvas-type sacks lined with asbestos and used in between the cable vault covers for fire protection.
  • Ebony power boards, which were impregnated composition panels used in electrical switchboards, fuse panels and power boards.
  • Felted asbestos-covered wires, which were special application wires for high-heat exposure or high-fire potential; insulation resistance of wires for high-voltage applications.

Phone Company Workers

When the average American thinks of someone who works for a phone company, they may not associate them with health risks that could lead to a deadly disease. Working for a phone company may not be commonly thought of as a “dangerous” occupation. In the past, however, it very much was – all because these workers were unknowingly exposed to a microscopic, toxic fiber that could increase risk of a fatal cancer called mesothelioma.

Regardless of whether they were installers, equipment engineers, line technicians, construction workers, job supervisors or account reps, all telephone employees had the potential for possible inhalation of deadly fibers from products that were all too common to the phone industry.

Installation activities on customer property could lead to serious potential for asbestos exposure since the presence or absence of asbestos in various buildings or residences on walls, in ceilings and around pipes was frequently unknown. At that time, even though the dangers of asbestos were well-known in the medical and scientific communities, they were not often discussed with the general public. Working around the following materials was especially hazardous for phone company personnel:

  • Asbestos-containing acoustical plaster
  • Asbestos insulation on steam pipes, exhaust pipes, boilers, tanks and air plenums
  • Asbestos lined floor and ceiling tiles
  • Asbestos wallboard and joint compound
  • Decorative building materials (i.e. textured ceilings)
  • Fibrous components in older telephone equipment such as washers, papers and textiles
  • Sprayed on asbestos structural fire proofing located in hung or drop ceilings

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