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Electricians Should be Aware of Risks from Asbestos Exposure

electricians at workUp until the mid-1980s, asbestos was a common component of many industrial and commercial products. Its physical properties – namely, it’s strength and fireproofing capabilities – made it popular for use in insulation, flooring and roofing materials.

Although industries ignored the evidence linking asbestos exposure to several diseases for years, the scientific studies eventually became undeniable, leading to a great reduction in the use of this mineral. However, its pervasive utility in construction during the 20th century means that people employed in construction, home improvement or any trade that involves working in older buildings are at a continual risk for coming into contact with asbestos.

Among those at risk are electricians.

Exposure on the job
Scientists all over the world are aware of how asbestos can lead to diseases such as malignant mesothelioma. They also know that people who work in certain sectors are more at risk than others, leading to the publication of numerous papers measuring the likelihood of these illnesses among individual tradespeople.

In Finland, one team of scientists conducted a study that included 23 mesothelioma patients, all of whom were divided into groups according to how probable exposure to asbestos was in their line of work.

Results showed that the concentration of mineral fibers in the lungs was the greatest for electricians who worked in shipyards. Both men were employed in these fields for at least 20 years.

Another electrician also developed mesothelioma after working only seven years in construction. Other subjects, including a truck driver, got the disease after he was exposed to asbestos on the job for twice that amount of time.

One other study from Germany, evaluating nearly 7,800 power workers, revealed that within the industry, asbestos was a bigger problem for those working in power-generating plants than those who handles installations for power distribution.

Protecting yourself from the problem
No matter where you work in the world, asbestos is easy to encounter as an electrician because insulation is commonly found near heat-producing power sources. Also, when it comes to construction, jobs that involve drilling are likely to disturb asbestos fibers found in products that include ceiling tiles, wall plaster, circuit breakers or cement siding.

At Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley, we want to make sure you’re protected. It helps to be aware of federal regulations that require the operators of demolition or renovation projects to notify state authorities upon finding a certain threshold of asbestos within buildings. You should also stay informed about guidelines regarding on-the-job ventilation, waste-disposal practices, HEPA filter use and asbestos wetting procedures.

Mesothelioma Occupational Case Studies

Firefighter Holding ChildWhen dealing with a mesothelioma diagnosis, it can be helpful to know more about how the disease is connected to asbestos exposure. At Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley, we know that this knowledge not only allows you to seek the most appropriate medical treatment, but also gives you a better idea of the legal options available to you and your family.

Sometimes it can be hard to imagine the risks associated with certain kinds of employment. For that reason, researchers have conducted hundreds of occupational case studies over the years. These can pinpoint which types of employment carry the greatest risk of asbestos exposure and lung disease.

Early reports on asbestos risks

The first report to really hammer home the connection between asbestos and mesothelioma was published in 1960. Its authors, a trio of UK pathologists, noticed something odd in South Africa: more than 30 cases of mesothelioma, all of them clustered in the Asbestos Hills outside of Cape Province.

Using the case-control method – in which scientists survey people with a rare disease and look for shared risk factors – the group boiled the cause down to one variable: asbestos exposure. This paper unleashed a flood of ensuing case studies, each of which examined the asbestos-related risks associated with certain occupations.

Occupations at risk for asbestos exposure

Because of these reports, today we know that these occupations tend to have the highest rates of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM):

  • Construction workers
  • Shipbuilders
  • Firefighters
  • Insulation installers
  • Heating equipment handlers
  • Brake pad manufacturers
  • Demolition workers

Unfortunately, it does not take a huge dose of asbestos to cause the kind of cell damage that is linked to MPM. A case-control study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that even though large amounts of asbestos exposure are extraordinarily dangerous, relatively small doses of the fiber can still be more than enough to engender the fatal lung disease.

Another case study appearing in the British Journal of Cancer backed up this idea. Its authors surveyed more than 500 men with mesothelioma, all of whom had been plumbers, carpenters, electricians, painters or constructions workers. The team found that the vast majority of these patients had had occupational asbestos exposure.

However, very few had been around the fiber for all that long. In fact, just four men reported having worked around asbestos for more than five years.

For anyone who thinks they have been in contact with asbestos, however briefly, it is important to get regularly checked by a doctor. After all, the lag time between asbestos exposure and a diagnosis of mesothelioma can be deceptively long – often on the order of three or four decades.

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