Why Is Asbestos a Threat to Electricians?

Asbestos is a group of fiber-like minerals that was commonly used to fortify and reduce the flammability of countless commercial and construction products before the mid-1980s. When the asbestos used to make these products begins to flake or crumble, they become a danger to anyone nearby who might inhale them. Electricians are especially at risk of asbestos-caused diseases due to the proximity of their work to many asbestos products.

Powerhouses, demolition sites, street cables, and even suburban homes can all contain unsafe levels of airborne asbestos dust. Working in these areas for extended periods of time and inhaling or ingesting large amounts of asbestos can lead to organ damage, including:

Where Are Electricians Exposed to Asbestos?

Electricians can encounter carcinogens throughout their workday across a variety of settings. Electrical workers (including linemen and wiremen) typically come across asbestos when construction materials made with the fiber are disturbed. Or they might come into contact with the toxin while working on old, asbestos-containing equipment like heating units, hot water tanks, generators, and turbines.

Because of the widespread use of asbestos, especially in buildings and houses built before the 1980s, electricians’ potential for hazardous exposure is often much higher than other career fields. Electricians may be exposed to asbestos by:

  • Arc chutes
  • Asbestos cement sheets
  • Boiler rooms
  • Fuse boxes and panels
  • Hot water service units
  • Insulation
  • In-ground pits and conduits
  • Main electrical meters
  • Millboard
  • Mounting and resin boards
  • Pipe lagging
  • Roofs, walls, and ceilings
  • Soffits or eaves linings
  • Woven asbestos textile fuse linings

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Cancer Risks for Families of Electricians

While about half of all mesothelioma diagnoses can be linked to occupational exposure to asbestos, some cases are caused by secondary exposure. Secondary asbestos exposure occurs when a person working in close proximity to the toxic dust carries it home on their clothes, skin, or hair. At home, this dust can be transferred to family members through physical contact (like a hug), doing chores like laundry, and more.

The long-term health problems caused by secondary exposure are the same as primary exposure. Children exposed to asbestos at a young age may develop breathing problems, internal tissue scarring, and mesothelioma earlier in life.

What Health Problems Are Electricians Likely to Develop?

Mesothelioma is one of the primary long-term health complications electricians may develop as a result of toxic exposure while at work. Other asbestos-caused diseases (like asbestosis and pleural plaques) begin with similar cellular damage produced by asbestos fibers stuck within the body. Because these dust fibers cannot be removed once they are lodged in the linings of organs, it is paramount to protect electricians from inhaling them in the first place.

If an electrical worker has worked around loose asbestos dust for too long without respiratory protection, they may begin to develop symptoms of disease. The general symptoms of asbestos-related diseases include blood clots, excessive sweating, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, and unexpected weight loss.

Depending on the type of mesothelioma, you may experience the following side effects of growing cancers.

Pericardial mesothelioma Chest pain, heart murmurs, irregular heartbeat, and shortness of breath
Peritoneal mesothelioma Abdominal pain, constipation, nausea and vomiting, and swollen belly
Pleural mesothelioma Cough, hoarseness, pain in the side of chest and lower back, shortness of breath, swelling of the face or arms, and trouble swallowing

What Happens When an Electrician Is Diagnosed With Mesothelioma?

Early symptoms of cancers like mesothelioma are often mistaken for other, common health problems. Symptoms like a persistent cough or swollen belly are sometimes diagnosed as complications of poor health habits (like smoking cigarettes or unhealthy eating).

To diagnose mesothelioma, doctors perform a biopsy on the suspected area, removing tissue to analyze under a microscope. Because biopsies are an invasive procedure, your doctor will conduct a series of tests before ordering a tissue biopsy. After a physical exam, your doctor may ask about your work history and the possibility of toxic exposure. If your doctor believes you may have developed an occupational disease as a result of working as an electrician, they will order specific diagnostic tests.

Once you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-caused disease, you have a limited amount of time to file a legal claim for compensation and benefits.

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Legal and Financial Help

Electricians and other electrical workers who developed an asbestos-related chronic disease are frequently entitled to some form of financial compensation. Workers’ compensation provides benefits to employees, while asbestos trust funds are available to retired workers who file a claim.

For more information about your eligibility to file a claim or personal injury lawsuit, fill out a free case evaluation form.

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