01. Asbestos Risk for Electricians
How Are Electricians Exposed to Asbestos?
Electricians are responsible for assisting with electrical system design, installation and maintenance. This work brings professionals into contact with many asbestos products. For example, electricians repairing house wiring may come into contact with asbestos. They may encounter the mineral in drywall, insulation, ceilings or floors.
These products contained asbestos from the early 1900s through about 1980. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced asbestos regulations to curb the mineral’s usage. However, electricians today may still risk exposure to asbestos products installed before 1980. This exposure can still pose a health risk.
Facts About Electricians
- 739,200 electricians in the United States (2019)
- Asbestos Exposure: Previous and ongoing exposure risk
- Asbestos-Related Disease Risk: Moderate
- Similar Occupations: Construction workers, linemen, plumbers, laborers, insulators, HVAC workers
What Asbestos Products Put Electricians at Risk?
Electricians may have come into contact with asbestos in electrical and construction materials. Installing, repairing or otherwise disturbing asbestos products can release airborne asbestos fibers.
Electricians may have been exposed to asbestos from:
- Adhesives and sealants
- Arc chutes
- Asbestos felt
- Asbestos paper
- Duct adhesive
- Duct insulation
- Dust masks
- Cables and wires
- Circuit breakers
- Construction and building materials
- Electric boards
- Electrical panels
- Electrical wiring
- Fireproofing materials
- Floor and ceiling tiles
- Heating ducts
- HVAC systems
- Popcorn ceiling coverings
- Preformed pipe wrap
- Thermal paper
- Vinyl floors
- Wire insulation
Electrical work around these materials may have released asbestos fibers. Some products are highly friable. This means they crumble easily under small amounts of pressure. High-friability products, such as loose-fill insulation, pose a larger health threat.
Electricians often have to use power tools to access wiring during maintenance. Cutting through asbestos-containing materials with these tools can release asbestos dust. Power tools also grind materials typically considered non-friable, making them more dangerous.
Activities That May Have Exposed Electricians to Asbestos
Arc chutes are used in circuit breakers to insulate and protect circuits. The arc chute acts as a barrier between two contacts and prevents high voltage sparks. Before the mid-1980s, arc chutes were made from asbestos-containing plastic molding compounds. A high voltage spark could crack the arc chute, creating dust and particles.
Asbestos was often used in wire insulation to provide heat resistance. Electricians are often responsible for replacing this insulation or servicing the wires themselves.
Disturbing these materials, which are often decades old, may release asbestos fibers.
Numerous companies manufactured asbestos products. These companies were often aware of the dangers of asbestos but did little to protect workers.
Many of these companies are construction and building product manufacturers. However, some of them manufactured electrical system products specifically. The following companies produced asbestos-containing electrical products:
- General Electric
- Westinghouse Electric Corporation
- Union Carbide
Other asbestos companies manufactured products electricians were likely to come into contact with.
Manufacturers of Asbestos Products Electricians May Have Been Exposed to
- AC & S Inc. (ACandS)
- A&I Corporation
- A. P. Green Industries
- Amatex Corporation
- Armstrong World Industries
- Bechtel Corporation
- Bird Corporation
- Bondex International
- Celotex Corporation
- CertainTeed Corporation
- C. E. Thurston & Sons
- Combustion Engineering
- Crown Cork & Seal Company
- DAP, Inc.
- Ehret Magnesia
- Fibreboard, brand name Pabco
- The Flintkote Company
- GAF Corporation
- Garlock Sealing Technologies
- General Electric
- Georgia Pacific Corporation
- H.K. Porter (a brand from Apex Tool Group)
- Kaiser Aluminum
- Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc.
- Keene Corporation
- Kelly-Moore Paints
- Kentile Floors
- Melrath Gasket, Inc.
- Metalclad Insulation Corporation
- National Gypsum Company
- New England Insulation
- Nicolet/Keasbey & Mattison
- Owens-Corning Fiberglas, brand name Kaylo
- Pacor, Inc.
- Pittsburgh Corning (UNARCO Industries)
- Raybestos/Raymark Industries, Inc.
- Rock Wool Manufacturing
- Turner & Newall
- Union Carbide
- USG Corporation (United States Gypsum Corporation)
- Western MacArthur
- Westinghouse Electric Corporation
- W.R. Grace
Common Places Asbestos Is Found in the Electrical Industry
Electricians are most likely to come into contact with asbestos in buildings. Many buildings were constructed before the asbestos regulations of the late 1970s. As a result, electricians who worked or still work in these older buildings may come into contact with asbestos.
Locations in the workplace that often exposed electricians include:
- Boiler rooms
- Commercial buildings
- Construction sites
- Electrical boxes
- Industrial facilities
- Open walls
- Renovation sites
Electricians working in these areas may have been exposed to low to high concentrations of asbestos. However, there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Indoor work locations may present a larger risk, due to low ventilation. As a result, fibers may become concentrated in the air.
Electricians and At-Risk Trades
Electricians and other tradespeople may have experienced occupational asbestos exposure. Anyone who comes in contact with asbestos materials may risk asbestos diseases. However, those regularly working with these materials are at an increased risk of health issues.
At-risk trades in the electrical industry include:
- Computer, ATM and office machine repair workers
- Construction workers
- Electrical engineering technicians
- IT professionals
- Power station workers
These workers may have been exposed to asbestos while performing their duties. Installing, maintaining, removing and/or inspecting electrical systems could have caused exposure.
Workers were not the only individuals at risk from asbestos-containing electrical products. In some cases, the families and loved ones of electricians may have experienced secondary asbestos exposure. This can occur when workers carry home asbestos fibers on their person.
Secondary Exposure Gives Daughter of Electrician Mesothelioma
In 2006, then-35-year-old Julie Gundlach was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. Julie was a child at the time of her exposure. She was exposed to asbestos from her father’s work clothing, placed in the laundry room at the end of a workday. Her father was an electrician.
02. Mesothelioma Risk for Electricians
Mesothelioma Risk for Electricians
In one study, researchers evaluated the presence of asbestos fibers in exposed individuals’ lungs. This is called the lung burden. Lung burden often correlates with mesothelioma incidence and mortality.
The study’s authors found increased lung burden among plumbers, electricians and painters. This is in comparison to other construction workers and those without occupational exposure. The researchers found the highest asbestos fiber levels among those born between 1940 to 1954.
These individuals were likely exposed at peak asbestos use. However, asbestos exposure from older buildings can still affect electricians today.
03. Compensation for Electricians
Compensation for Victims of Occupational Asbestos Exposure
Electricians with an asbestos disease may be eligible for compensation. Compensation can help asbestos victims cover medical costs and recover lost wages. Seeking legal action also holds asbestos companies responsible for negligence.
Electricians and their families have filed many asbestos cases. The resolutions of these cases are not always made public. Often, this can be due to out-of-court settlements.
Recent cases involving electrician asbestos exposure include:
- In 2019, former journeyman electrician Eusebio Jacob filed an asbestos lawsuit. He filed the claim against Plastics Engineering Company (PLENCO) and Rockwell Automation, Inc. for occupational asbestos exposure. Jacob worked at the Navy Ship Repair Facility in Guam from about 1962 to 1985. During this time, he came into contact with asbestos products supplied by these companies.
- In 2014, a former apprentice electrician was diagnosed with pleural effusion and mesothelioma. The patient had been exposed to asbestos regularly between 1951 and 1953. During this time, the victim worked for Richard Klinger Limited. The apprentice electrician worked at the company’s factory in Orpington, Kent, UK. The patient’s case was settled out of court.
- A Charlotte, North Carolina, firefighter and electrician experienced asbestos exposure during his work at FJT Electric Inc. in 1996. His exposure at these jobs resulted in an asbestos disease. He was ultimately awarded about $3.9 million.
Electricians with an asbestos disease should contact a mesothelioma law firm to learn about their options for compensation.