Up until the late 1970s, asbestos was incorporated into numerous building materials, including joint compound (mud), acoustical plaster, vinyl floor tiles, ceiling tiles, fireproofing material, and pipe insulation. Asbestos was also widely used in a variety of manufacturing processes as a material that was incorporated into a product, such as phenolic plastic and vinyl floor tile, or as an insulation material applied to industrial equipment, including furnaces, pipes and boilers. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma or lung cancer.
At industrial or commercial job sites, electricians typically install, repair and update electrical systems. These systems can be found inside manufacturing equipment or inside a factory or plant. Electricians and electrical engineers often work at shipyards, power plants, chemical plants and manufacturing facilities where other asbestos products were used, often by other tradesmen working in the same area. Electricians commonly worked shoulder-to-shoulder with asbestos insulation workers who mixed, applied and removed asbestos-containing pipe covering, block insulation and cement. Preparation, application and removal of asbestos-containing insulation materials created a constant cloud of asbestos dust that workers inhaled.
Electricians may have also been exposed to asbestos through the manufacturing process of a variety of goods that incorporated asbestos, such as phenolic plastic (Bakelite) and vinyl floor tiles. Manufacturers of plastic molding compounds, including Durez Plastics, Plenco, General Electric, Rogers and Union Carbide, incorporated asbestos into their plastic molding compounds. Electricians, who worked at these facilities, inhaled the asbestos fibers during the manufacturing process. Ironically, electricians also worked with the end product; Bakelite and ebony asbestos boards were commonly used in terminal blocks. When these plastic products are manipulated, drilled or sanded, dust and fibers can become airborne and easily inhaled or ingested.
During the construction of new commercial buildings, electricians often worked side-by-side with fire proofers who applied asbestos-containing fireproofing to the steel structure of buildings. Because electrical wiring was often hidden from sight, electricians installed conduits and metal-clad after the fireproofing material was sprayed. In order to hang a conduit, the fireproofing material was scraped to clamp the conduit to the beam. Even long after the asbestos fireproofing was applied; the smallest of vibrations had the potential to dislodge fibers into the air. Electricians, who worked in the vicinity of fireproofing material, were put at risk for exposure to asbestos fibers and dust.
Residential homes built prior to 1977 may contain asbestos materials, including joint compound (mud), ceiling tiles, vinyl floor tile, attic insulation (vermiculite) and textured paints (popcorn ceilings). Electricians are often found intricately placing wires behind wallboard, above ceiling tiles, or in hard to reach places. Electricians also drilled or sawed through asbestos building materials in order to place switch boxes, can lights and other fixtures. Drilling or sawing asbestos-containing materials also gives rise to asbestos-containing dust, which electricians inhaled.
Regardless of the job site, electricians often had significant occupational exposure to asbestos. Even though new electrical products used by electricians no longer contain asbestos, those who are still in the profession often work with older electrical products that contain asbestos, or work in older buildings that may still contain asbestos building materials. If you or a loved one were once employed as an electrician and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.
Asbestos-containing building materials encountered by electricians may include:
- Acoustical Plaster
- Asbestos Cloth Electrical Tape
- Asbestos Insulation on HVAC Ducts
- Asbestos Vinyl Floor Tiles
- Cement Wallboard
- Ceiling Tiles
- Decorative Plaster
- Electrical Panel Partitions
- Electric Wiring Insulation
- Joint Compound (mud)
- Spackling Compounds
- Sprayed-On Asbestos Fireproofing Material
- Textured Paints, including popcorn ceiling paints
- Thermal Paper Products
- Transite Siding