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Asbestos in Electric Wiring

Asbestos was a common material used in electrical wiring insulation, which is used to prevent deadly fires in buildings. Unfortunately, asbestos-based electrical wiring insulation that protected against fire was put people at risk of the deadly cancer mesothelioma.

Fact-Checked and Updated by: Jenna Tozzi, RN

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Asbestos in Electric Wiring Exposure and Risks

Electrical wiring is found in every facility that has electricity. Almost all electric wiring is insulated by electrical cloth, a fire and heat-resistant material wrapped around metal wires to prevent fire. If an electrical short occurs resulting in a spark, the spark would be dampened by the electrical cloth and die out.

Before the 1980s, asbestos was a common ingredient in the cloth used for electric wiring. Asbestos is fire, heat and water-resistant, making it an incredibly durable material. Because it could be mined across the country, it became cost-effective and easy to source as well.

Unfortunately, scientists discovered that asbestos wasn’t the miracle material that many thought it was. Asbestos used in electric wiring poses a significant and serious health concern that has killed many Americans and electrical workers throughout the world.

Even once the danger of asbestos was discovered, it still took over a decade for American companies to discontinue using asbestos products like electric wiring.

The electric wiring insulation manufactured today does not use asbestos. However, many homes and facilities constructed in decades past will still contain asbestos, presenting an ongoing danger to the people who work and live in these buildings.

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Who Was Exposed to Asbestos in Electric Wiring?

Individuals working with electric wiring insulation either in manufacturing or building are at the highest risk of being exposed to asbestos.

In the past, this risk was often from installation work, as workers would directly handle, cut, and manipulate the electric wiring insulation as needed.

Today, the risk of asbestos exposure is reduced but still exists every time a person works with electrical components of a building built before asbestos was phased out.

The people most likely to be exposed to the asbestos in electric wiring include:

When working with existing wiring insulation that’s likely to contain asbestos, it’s critical that workers use all available precautions to prevent and minimize exposure.

Exposure dangers are amplified by the friable nature of asbestos, which makes fibers more likely to break down and become airborne as they age.

Even now, people who have asbestos-containing electric wiring in their offices, commercial spaces, and homes may be exposed to asbestos, especially if they have DIY inclinations and the buildings were constructed before the 1980s.

Health Risks of Asbestos in Electric Wiring

Asbestos in electric wiring insulation poses a serious health risk and is part of a national crisis that continues to this day.

Asbestos that is moved, cut or otherwise disturbed can send microscopic fibers into the air, which can then be inhaled by any person in the surrounding area.

Once inhaled, these asbestos fibers work their way into the body and can become stuck in the soft lining of the abdomen, lungs or heart. Stuck fibers can trigger a mutation in nearby cells, which transforms them into mesothelioma cells.

Mesothelioma is challenging to detect in its early stages, as most victims don’t display symptoms until mesothelioma has progressed into stage 3 or 4. At this point, the cancer is incredibly difficult to destroy and has a poor prognosis.

The majority of victims diagnosed with mesothelioma have a survival rate of fewer than 5 years.

Asbestos can also cause asbestosis, a dangerous form of scarring on the lungs that is linked to respiratory conditions, heart failure, and additional types of cancer.

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Seeking Justice for Asbestos Exposure

The asbestos in electric wiring insulation can have devastating physical and mental health impacts. Fortunately, resources are available to help alleviate some of the burden of mesothelioma for the victims and their families.

If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our Justice Support Team now to access the support and resources you need.

Call us at (866) 608-8933 or get our Free Asbestos Guide to understand your next steps as a mesothelioma victim.

Jenna TozziWritten by:

Director of Patient Advocacy

Jenna Tozzi, RN, is the Director of Patient Advocacy at Mesothelioma Hope. With more than 15 years of experience as an adult and pediatric oncology nurse navigator, Jenna provides exceptional guidance and support to mesothelioma patients and their loved ones. Jenna has been featured in Oncology Nursing News and is a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators & the American Nurses Association.

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  1. Inspectapedia, “Asbestos Electrical Insulation.” Retrieved from  Accessed on June 10, 2018.

  2. Electrician Talk, “Does old wire contain asbestos?” Retrieved from:  Accessed on June 10, 2018.

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