Electricians were and may continue to be exposed to deadly asbestos fibers in electrical equipment and panels for decades. Asbestos has qualities that make it an ideal material for equipment that may contain high heat and sparks that could start a fire. But asbestos fibers also cause disabling and deadly diseases to those exposed to them.
If you or a loved one worked as an electrician or worked around electricians, and are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, contact Satterley & Kelley, PLLC. We may obtain compensation for the harm you suffer due to the asbestos industry’s indifference to the health of those using their products. Call us today at 855-385-9532 to learn more.
What is an Electrical Panel?
An electrical panel, also known as a circuit breaker panel or a distribution board, is a crucial part of a building’s electrical system. It’s the central hub for distributing and controlling electrical power throughout a structure. It receives incoming electrical power from the utility and distributes it to various circuits within the building to power lights, appliances, outlets, and other electrical devices.
Electrical currents cause heat, and if the panel and circuits aren’t grounded and wired correctly, an electrical short could start a fire.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of minerals made up of fine, light, strong, durable fibers resistant to heat, electricity, fire, and many chemicals.
Why Was Asbestos Used in Electrical Panels?
By the 1930s, most homes and buildings had electricity. Electrical panels were made of asbestos-containing materials, including tar, millboard, cement, plastic, or ebony wood. Asbestos was also part of other electrical equipment, including wiring and arc chutes. This continued until the 1980s, when safety and health regulations effectively forced them off the market.
To combat possible fires, early electrical panels used asbestos as an insulator. Asbestos is resistant to electricity, heat, and fire. Asbestos makes electrical systems less likely to start fires or electrocute those using them.
How Was Asbestos Used in Electrical Panels?
Asbestos was used as a part of a building’s electrical system, including the panel, for decades. It was part of many components.
- Ebonized Asbestos Panels: “Asbestos lumber” was asbestos-containing cement sold as a fireproof alternative to wood boards that created the panel. “Ebonized” asbestos lumber was more moisture resistant
- Asbestos Cement Electrical Shielding: Asbestos cement sheets were between electrical components as shielding. Sheets were shaped into arc chutes that enclosed electrical switches
- Molded Asbestos Cement Bases: Asbestos cement was shaped to fit electrical components, so there was no need for additional shielding
- Asbestos Electrical Paper: Known as flash guards, this asbestos-impregnated paper lined many electrical panels
- Asbestos Wire Insulation: Asbestos fireproofed and insulated individual wires
- Asbestos Cable Wrap: Thick electrical cables were sometimes wrapped in asbestos paper or cloth
- Asbestos-Containing Plastic Molding: Moldable or thermosetting plastic often had asbestos. These plastic molds were also heat, fire, and electricity resistant, making them attractive components for electrical panels
Asbestos was part of thousands of products over centuries. The fact the asbestos industry actively hid asbestos’ dangers from those using it for decades significantly extended the time of its use and the number of those sickened and killed by it.
Why is Asbestos Dangerous?
Inhaling and swallowing airborne asbestos fibers can result in them lodging into the lungs and other organs, reports the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Non-cancer diseases can be caused by breathing in asbestos, including:
- Asbestosis: This is severe lung scarring caused by asbestos fibers and the body’s immune response to them. Oxygen and carbon dioxide can’t pass in and out of scarred lungs easily, so breathing is more difficult. Those with this disease usually had very high asbestos exposures over long periods
- Pleural disease: This is a condition changing the membrane surrounding the chest cavity and lungs (pleura). It could become thicker throughout the area or in isolated spots. Fluid might build up around the lungs (a pleural effusion), possibly making breathing difficult
Asbestos also increases the risk of developing some cancers, including:
- Lung cancer: This malignant tumor invades and blocks the lung’s air passages. Those exposed to asbestos and who smoked tobacco have a much greater risk of lung cancer
- Mesothelioma: This rare cancer of the pleura, the linings of abdominal cavity (peritoneum), and surrounding internal organs is highly aggressive and almost always fatal. Symptoms may not appear until 30 to 40 years after asbestos exposure
Other malignancies that asbestos may cause include cancers of the larynx, ovary, pharynx, stomach, and colorectum.
Those who installed, repaired, or changed electrical panels were at high risk of asbestos exposure. If drilled into, removed, or opened panels, they could release fibers into the air. This was especially dangerous if the work was done in a tight, unventilated area.
Do You Have an Asbestos-Related Disease? Call Us Today For A Free Attorney Consultation
Satterley & Kelley, PLLC, attorneys are your boots on the ground if you worked as an electrician or worked near them and believe your asbestos-related disease was the result. Our office is in Louisville, and we handle cases throughout Kentucky. Call 855-385-9532 or complete our contact form for a free initial consultation.
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