Electricians work in a variety of places, installing and maintaining wiring and electrical systems for both homes and businesses. In an average day, an electrician might be installing new wires through walls, attics, or crawl spaces. Electricians also replace old wiring or electrical panels on occasion. They play an integral role in the process of constructing new buildings or maintaining existing structures. Unfortunately, this very task has put them at risk for health problems because of asbestos.

Asbestos exposure is common for electricians because they routinely work on wiring in old structures that still contain asbestos building materials. Anytime someone is exposed to asbestos, it can put them at serious risk for deadly diseases like mesothelioma or lung cancer. While the material is more regulated than it once was, it can still be found in older buildings and machinery.

Asbestos Exposure

Electricians frequently encounter asbestos when repairing old equipment or wiring. Before its dangers were fully known, asbestos was commonly used as an insulator in wiring. Asbestos is often lurking in felted wire insulation and even inside of old circuit breaker boxes. Anytime asbestos materials are removed or cut, it releases small fibers and particles into the air, which are easily inhaled without notice. Electricians may encounter these lingering particles on the actual wiring or just in the general vicinity where other construction work is underway. The most dangerous exposures happen when electricians drill into old walls to add new wiring. The asbestos insulation hiding behind the drywall may go unnoticed, but exposure can be deadly.

Research on the Effects of Asbestos on Electricians

There have been a number of studies to learn more about how asbestos exposure impacts electricians and other workers on construction sites. A study conducted in 2008 included interviews with 119 men and women who had been exposed to asbestos on the job, including electricians. Researchers discovered a high rate of asbestos exposure among electricians after measuring biomarkers for mesothelioma.  The electricians in the group also had high angiogenic factors, which could signify the presence of dormant tumors that are likely to turn malignant. Based on these findings, researchers believe electricians face a high risk of developing mesothelioma and should be carefully monitored.

Asbestos Lawsuits Filed by Electricians

Because it can take decades for asbestos exposure to cause cancer or mesothelioma, many electricians do not even realize they face a high risk for these diseases until it’s too late.

In order to cover their medical bills and to bring to light the actions of the responsible companies, many lawsuits have been filed because of asbestos exposure. Both General Electric and Union Carbide manufactured electrical components and wiring that contained asbestos, and both companies have been named in multiple lawsuits related to occupational exposure.

Electricians aren’t the only ones at risk, however. In 2010, a Washington woman filed a lawsuit after she got mesothelioma through “take home exposure”. While she was never exposed directly, her father was an electrician and she would often play in the laundry room where he would leave his asbestos-covered work clothes. Her father died from lung cancer and now the daughter was suffering from life-threatening mesothelioma.

All electricians should be aware of the serious risk of asbestos exposure when working in old homes or buildings. Wearing protective gear and respirator masks is essential to prevent the development of asbestos-related cancers. If you’ve already been exposed, alert your doctor immediately so that you can be properly monitored for signs of disease that could be tied to asbestos. If you’ve already been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, consider speaking with a reputable attorney who can help you explore your legal options.