Electricians are one of the highest-risk groups for asbestos-related disease, according to a 2018 International Journal of Epidemiology study. Exposure to asbestos, a prevalent component in building and electrical materials, is the cause. Although asbestos was removed from many products in the 1980s, it was never banned in the United States, and the hazards of this toxin continue to linger.
What the Experts Say
The U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) documents America’s annual usage of various minerals. According to the latest USGS Commodities Summaries, the United States imported 100 tons of asbestos minerals in 2019. The report notes that the United States also brought in an additional “unknown quantity of asbestos” in manufactured construction products.
Data gathered by British researchers show that electricians are almost 16 times more likely to develop mesothelioma than the general population. The data was published in a study featured in a 2018 issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a 2017 study on the rate of mesothelioma mortality by occupation. Similar to the British researchers, the CDC found that electrical workers have an increased likelihood of death by mesothelioma compared to the general public.
How Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma
When asbestos is disturbed, its fibers fly into the air. These fibers are released when asbestos-containing products are mixed, cut, sanded, or otherwise manipulated. Degraded and hazardous asbestos is often found in aging buildings and debris from natural disasters, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). When airborne asbestos fibers are inhaled, they lodge in the lungs and can result in latent cancer. The resulting disease takes years to develop.
How Electricians Are Exposed to Asbestos
There are three primary ways electricians may experience asbestos exposure, this includes exposure via new construction, from renovations or repairs, and from materials routinely used to complete an electrician’s job.
Prior to the 1980s, asbestos was abundant, cheap, and prized for its tensile strength, fire resistance, and insulation properties. Manufacturers added it to thousands of products used in residential settings, commercial sites, and industrial manufacturing. Asbestos added durability and heat resistance to a wide range of products, especially those used in construction and electrical work. However, since it has never been officially banned, asbestos is also found in modern formulations of certain construction materials.
Electricians have been exposed to carcinogenic asbestos fibers when working in areas under construction where asbestos-containing products are cut and sanded for installation or swept during clean-up. Today, it is still legal to manufacture, import, process, and distribute asbestos-containing construction materials, including cement corrugated sheet, flat sheet, pipe, and vinyl tile floor. Modern electricians working in installation and new construction are at risk of exposure to these materials.
While maintaining existing electrical systems, an electrician may need to cut into a wall or drill into transite pipe, both of which could contain asbestos, in order to complete the repairs. He or she will then need to patch up the hole. These repairs can create substantial dust, especially in cramped areas. Repairs and installation that took place years prior or repairs involving older construction material, all run the risk of exposing electricians and other workers to asbestos-containing construction materials such as insulation, joint compound, sheetrock, piping, and other things. Furthermore, dust control was not a common practice before the 1980s and has historically not always been enforced, making it unavoidable to breathe loose fibers.
Finally, electrical trades have been highly susceptible to asbestos exposure because of its use in materials needed to perform their jobs. Asbestos has a neutral conductivity, making it an ideal insulator for coating wires and fire prevention. At one time, many electrical products were made with asbestos, including cables, insulation, tape, wires, asbestos linings and washers for breaker boxes, contact terminals, electric ducts or raceways, insulating paper, phenolic material, and insulating film. Even some protective clothing and gloves for electricians incorporated asbestos.
What Can You Do About Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma?
If you think you were exposed to asbestos or if you are experiencing respiratory problems and back pain, talk to your doctor. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, stubborn cough, and unexpected weight loss. It’s important to tell your doctor about your work history and any symptoms you may be having. Request a screening for asbestos-related disease and go to your regular check-ups.
How We Help Victims of Asbestos Exposure
Seek justice with the help of our experienced mesothelioma attorneys. Our law firm, Waters Kraus Paul & Siegel, has represented individuals like you affected by asbestos exposure for over 20 years, aggressively fighting the corporate giants responsible for their dangerous products. If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos or suffer from a disease caused by asbestos like mesothelioma, we can help.