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Electricians: Risks of Mesothelioma due to Exposure to Asbestos

Electricians are at risk of developing mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos. Though it has been decades since the use of asbestos in industrial, commercial, and private sectors has been outlawed, many trade and craftspeople are still regularly exposed to this dangerous carcinogen during the course of their everyday work. That’s because the amount of in-place asbestos across the United States is nearly unknowable.  Conservative estimates put the figure in the hundreds of thousands of tons.

Houses, schools, churches, commercial buildings, offices, and apartments constructed before the Clean Air Act outlawed the use of asbestos products in new construction may all contain some form of this cancer-causing mineral.  Asbestos was used in insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, wallboard, adhesives, and much, much more. 

And those products are just as dangerous today as they were when they were installed – even more so in many cases because they’ve degraded over time, releasing those trapped asbestos fibers into the air.

That’s why the Enivronmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued several warnings to electricians and other tradespeople about their risk for asbestos exposure and mesothelioma.  Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer caused by asbestos, hence often referred to as "asbestos cancer."  Asbestos also causes irreversible scarring of the lungs, called asbestosis, and other types of diseases.  Even small amounts of exposure can lead to asbestos related illnesses developing 10 to 50 years later due to an inherently long latency period.

Electricians are at such high risk for mesothelioma because they are often required to open up or enter previously enclosed spaces in the building in which they are working.  Ceilings, attics, crawl spaces, and more may contain high levels of asbestos products or asbestos dust.

Indeed, the list of asbestos products that electricians themselves have used in the past and may currently come into contact with is extensive, including but not limited to:


  • thermal paper
  • spackling material
  • ceiling tiles
  • electrical cloth
  • cement siding
  • electrical ducts
  • electric wiring insulation
  • textured paints
  • cement wallboard
  • decorative plaster 

An electrician employed to replace the wiring in a portion of an older home may think nothing of crawling into the attic or crawl space to run wire but may be putting their own life at risk without even understanding how. 

The EPA has repeatedly warned that no amount of asbestos exposure can ever be considered safe and even small amounts of or limited exposure to this carcinogen can cause illness.  In fact, there have been documented cases of patients developing mesothelioma after only being exposed to asbestos for a few days. 

How is this possible?  Because asbestos exposure may be cumulative.  The asbestos fibers enter the body through normal respiration and may never leave.  The fibers, when magnified, are very “sharp” and easily penetrate soft tissue, such as that that lines the heart, lungs, and digestive tract. These trapped fibers eventually cause the growth of tumors, tumors which can spread to other part of the body, and will eventually kill the victim.

The EPA, in addition to reiterating the health warning to all electricians and tradespeople, recommends that these professionals educate themselves about asbestos.  They urge electricians, whether self-employed or employees, to learn what asbestos products look like, how these products should be treated, and what to do is asbestos is discovered at on of their jobsites.

Mesothelioma and all asbestos related diseases are completely preventable.  Knowing the enemy is key and staying away from asbestos is the only way to remain safe and healthy. 

There are many local and national organizations that hold classes to teach these craftspeople how to identify asbestos.  The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) website or any of the local EPA agencies across the country can easily help electricians locate training materials and courses that can save their lives.