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Electric Boards

Asbestos in Electric Boards

Electric boards, more properly known as "electrical mounting boards," can serve a number of functions. They may provide a base for printed circuits, a series of electrical switches or relays, or function as part of a junction box.

Until the 1980s, asbestos insulation was often used in many electrical applications as a safeguard against electrical fires caused by short circuits. Asbestos fibers could be part of the material of electric boards as well. A popular material in these boards known as Bakelite contained asbestos fibers in order to strengthen the material and make it resistant to heat and fire damage.

The asbestos fiber in Bakelite is not normally a danger unless the material is damaged. If damage does occur through fire, mechanical damage, or simply wear and tear, the asbestos fibers may be friable, a state in which they are more easily released into the environment.

The variety of asbestos commonly used in electrical applications was crocidolite. Also known as "blue" asbestos, this substance has chemical properties that made it exceptionally useful as an electrical insulator. It is also the deadliest variety of asbestos. The fibers, which are hard, long and shaped like microscopic needles, not only penetrate lung tissue from the inside and push their way out into the viscera; they can also enter the bloodstream and travel to any location in the body.

Medical science does not fully understand how the interaction between asbestos fibers and cells causes the latter to turn into cancer, but the most recent research suggests that it is the chronic inflammation that triggers mutation at the DNA level. When this cancer develops in the viscera, it is called mesothelioma..

Electric Boards Products Containing Asbestos

The following partial list of electric boards products were known to contain asbestos:

Product Name Start Year End Year
Johns Manville Ebony Electric Boards
Nicolet Ebonized Electric Board

Hazards Associated with Electric Board Products

Workers who produced Bakelite plastic would have been exposed to high levels of asbestos fiber in the manufacturing environment. In addition, electricians and electrical workers dealing with electric boards (and many other pieces of electrical equipment) had the potential to be exposed to hazardous levels of asbestos fibers particularly when dealing with damaged or worn components. Firefighters battling electrical fires were also exposed to burning asbestos material, and cleanup and demolition workers tearing down old buildings containing electric board products would also have been at risk.

Sources

Sources

Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos (New York: Touchstone, 2003)

N/A. "MINOR WORKS ON ASBESTOS-BASED ELECTRICAL MOUNTING BOARDS FOR DOMESTIC AND COMMERCIAL METERING/ ELECTRICAL INSTALLATIONS." NSW Electrical Industry Asbestos Awareness Committee (New South Wales, Australia)

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