Electricians and Mesothelioma from Asbestos Exposure
Electricians are a trade that used asbestos-containing products until health regulations forced them off the market in the 1980s. They may still encounter this cancer-causing mineral fiber in older buildings today. Electricians injured by asbestos may be entitled to compensation for the harm they suffered.
What Do Electricians Do?
Electricians’ responsibilities include designing, installing, maintaining, repairing, and troubleshooting electrical systems. These systems can be in machines, ships, residential, commercial, or industrial buildings.
How Would an Electrician be Exposed to Asbestos?
Electricians may have handled equipment and supplies containing asbestos. Many other trades used asbestos, so a worksite may have been polluted by fibers in the air, inhaled by those working in the area.
Asbestos was used as insulation in electrical equipment because it was heat and fire-resistant. It also didn’t conduct electricity.
Electricians in the past installed, removed, and replaced equipment containing asbestos. Cutting and drilling equipment could release fibers into the air. Currently, that equipment may also pose a risk to electricians if the asbestos isn’t safely removed or encapsulated.
Electricians worked with asbestos in many types of products and equipment, including:
- Arc chutes: They insulated and protected circuits and were made of plastic molding compounds containing asbestos
- Electric ducts/raceways: These passageways for wires were often filled with asbestos to prevent electric shorts and fires
- Electrical paper: Also known as a flash guard, this was used in electrical boxes to prevent fires
- Electrical shielding: Asbestos shielded electrical components such as switches inside arc chutes
- Generators: They contained asbestos to reduce the risk of overheating and mechanical damage
- Heaters: Asbestos-containing electrical wire degraded over time due to the heat generated
- Water heaters: Asbestos insulating blankets were used under the heater’s metal cover to keep water hot
- Turbines: These large machines burn fuel to generate electricity. Asbestos was used to reduce fire risk
Electricians would be exposed to asbestos in products applied or removed by other trades, especially if they worked in shipyards, power plants, refineries, chemical plants, and large buildings. These products included insulation, fireproofing, flooring, and drywall.
What Are the Dangers of Asbestos?
Fibers were inhaled and worked their way into the lungs and the pleura, which lines the lungs and chest cavity. The body’s immune system would try and fail to dissolve them. The fibers and the immune response would cause inflammation. Over the years or decades, genetic changes would cause cell mutations that would result in lung and pleural mesothelioma. Fibers could also end up in the membranes covering the heart, organs, and abdominal cavity causing other types of mesotheliomas.
Health problems can depend on:
- The type of fiber
- The intensity and duration of exposure
- The overall time frame of exposure
- The health of the person
- Whether they smoked tobacco
These effects are unpredictable. After years or decades, someone with little exposure may be seriously ill, while another with heavy exposure may be relatively unharmed.
Some of the conditions an electrician may suffer due to asbestos exposure include:
- Asbestosis: Severe lung scarring that impairs the lungs’ ability to breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, making breathing more difficult and the lungs less effective
- Lung cancer: Malignant tumors invade and block the lung’s air passages. The risk of developing lung cancer increases dramatically if someone smokes tobacco and inhales asbestos fibers
- Pleural mesothelioma: This rare cancer of pleura may not develop until three or four decades after the initial asbestos exposure
- Peritoneal mesothelioma: Swallowed fibers could move through the digestive tract and become lodged in the peritoneum. Decades later, they could cause mesothelioma
- Pericardial mesothelioma: This condition is caused by asbestos fibers that ended up in the membrane lining the heart
If you were an electrician and were exposed to asbestos, consult with a healthcare provider to determine if it’s impacting your health.
How Harmful is Mesothelioma?
Pleural mesothelioma is a treatable cancer, but it’s generally not curable. Treatment may improve your symptoms and quality of life, but it probably won’t cure you.
The American Cancer Society estimates that generally, for those at all stages of the condition, about 12% will survive five years after diagnosis. If the disease hasn’t spread, that figure improves to 20%, but if it’s widely spread, the average drops to 8%.
A study of patients with pericardial mesothelioma states they lived, on average, two months after diagnosis. A 2013 article in the European Journal of Cancer covered the outcomes for 108 peritoneal mesothelioma patients. Researchers reported that 43.6% of them survived seven or more years after treatment finished.
For comparison, these are the overall five-year survival rate for other cancers:
- Colon cancer 64%
- Lung cancer 26%
- Melanoma 93%
- Liver cancer 20%
Your outcome depends on many factors, including your age, overall health, and type of mesothelioma.
Call Us Today for A Free Consultation
If you or a loved one worked as an electrician and were diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, Satterley & Kelley attorneys can answer your questions, and discuss what you must do to protect your rights.