When Thomas Edison invented the light bulb history was made. Soon thereafter, homes and businesses everywhere became "lit up". The thought of not having access to electricity today would throw most people into a major tailspin.
A whole new breed of tradesmen grew out of the evolution and widespread use of electricity. These trades people, also referred to as electricians, were needed to work with this potentially dangerous product particularly when it came to electrical wiring projects in homes and businesses. Electricians work in a highly specialized trade that requires significant training and long apprenticeships. Once training is complete electricians must pass a series of tests and obtain a license to work. There are electricians who specialize in working on the large scale construction of commercial buildings or housing complexes and these workers are generally employed by a construction firm. There are other types of electricians who prefer to work for themselves and they generally work on wiring systems in single family or multi family homes.
Electricians are Frequently Exposed to Asbestos on the Job
Through 1980 it was very common for electricians to suffer from on the job asbestos exposure. Asbestos, favored for its heat resistance and fire-proof qualities, was found primarily in the insulation in wiring applications as well as drywall and ceiling tiles. Large amounts of cutting and drilling into wallboard and tiles is necessary for an electrician to install or re-route wiring in homes and businesses. Oftentimes what the electrician was drilling through contained asbestos. As the electrician drilled through the material, dust would plume into the air and the asbestos would become airborne and dangerous to anyone who breathed it in. The smaller "mom and pop" type electricians were frequently not even aware that they were being exposed to a potentially toxic substance.
Insulation film and/or paper were also used by electricians on the job to avoid having people receive electrical shocks from exposed wires. The film and paper had to be cut to size and they too contained dangerous asbestos up until around the 1970's.
Electricians and their apprentices who were responsible for the maintenance of older wiring applications were placed at further risk for asbestos exposure after the 1980's. This is because they were working with old insulation and in the process of removing or repairing the old insulation, asbestos dust could become airborne. Unless adequate protective gear was used, these trades people and their apprentices remained at risk.
Electricians Use a Variety of Asbestos Products
There are a variety of products that electricians were known to work with on the job that contained potentially harmful asbestos. Some of them include thermal paper, spackling material, ceiling tiles, electrical cloth, cement siding, electrical ducts, electric wiring insulation, textured paints, cement wallboard, decorative plaster, electrical panel and partitions, cement siding and more.
Electricians are at Risk to Develop Mesothelioma, Lung Cancer and Asbestosis
Electricians who had extended exposure to asbestos dust in the trade were susceptible to developing pulmonary diseases like lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. This important medical discovery was made by the middle of the 1970's. Since then, many electricians have been reported to develop these life threatening illnesses.
It sometimes takes 10 years for lung cancer to show up in a person that had been exposed to asbestos and up to 40 years for asbestosis or mesothelioma cancer to develop. The symptoms can be mild at first but should not go ignored. They may include chest pain, difficult breathing, and persistent dry cough with blood in the sputum. These diseases generally have a grim life expectancy.
Second hand exposure can also contribute to asbestos-related diseases showing up in family members. Workers often carried asbestos fibers home on clothes, shoes and hair and family members who did the laundry or got close to these workers after they came home from work were potentially exposed to asbestos.