Asbestos in Electrical Panels
As the use of electricity entered every home and building throughout the 1900s, safety measures also had to be put into place. For much of the twentieth century, this involved the use of asbestos. Unfortunately, exposure to microscopic asbestos fibers can lead to the development of serious diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Making Electricity Safe
Electrical panels accept electricity from the main power supply and distribute it throughout a building. It accomplishes this by using cables to connect the power supply to a distribution box within the panel. Within the distribution box are fuses or breakers that connect the main power to electrical cables throughout the house or building.
Electrical currents produce heat and, if not grounded properly, can create a fire. In order to combat against this possibility, early electrical panels used asbestos as an insulator. Asbestos is a poor conductor of electricity and is also resistant to heat and fire. By using asbestos, electrical systems could be made safer.
While using asbestos made electricity in homes and other buildings safer, it also created a health risk for many individuals. This is because asbestos fibers that are breathed into the lungs can lead to the development of serious health conditions. These fibers can remain in the lungs for many years and slowly cause the development of mesothelioma or other cancers. Some of the individuals placed at high risk for asbestos exposure related to electricity are the workers who made electric panels, electricians that installed them, and maintenance workers.
By the 1930s, most homes and buildings had electricity. Companies such as Westinghouse Electric, General Electric, and Johns-Manville (among many others) began creating electrical supply systems with electric panels. Frequently, these panels were made with materials that contained asbestos, including cement, millboard, plastic, tar, or ebony wood. Other parts in the electrical supply systems also contained asbestos, including wiring, which was often covered with asbestos cloth to provide insulation and to protect the wires from flames. Other materials with asbestos included arc chutes, insulation paper, and braided rope. The practice of using asbestos-containing materials continued until the 1980s.
The dangers of asbestos were particularly high during preparation of compounds use in asbestos panel. During this process, asbestos was crushed and refined, which released fibers into the air. In addition, cutting finished electrical panels increased the risk of asbestos exposure. Individuals who installed, drilled, removed, or maintained electrical panels were also placed at risk. The risk was often greater when individuals worked in confined spaces, which placed electricians that worked on naval ships at particular risk.
Compassionate Legal Help
In some cases, it is possible for victims of asbestos exposure to hold those responsible for such exposure accountable. This is often very important because the cost of medical treatment for asbestos-related disease is often significant. For more information, speak with an attorney experienced in handling claims related to asbestos exposure. At the Throneberry Law Group, our attorneys will travel the country to where you live to provide help. We look forward to hearing from you.