Up 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.