Asbestos in Electrical Panel Partitions

For many years, manufacturers and commercial electric companies have used asbestos for several of the components in electrical products. This toxic mineral protected building tenants from fires and electrocution, but at the same time, electricians were exposed to serious health problems. 

The Danger

Unfortunately, the electrical panel partitions must be protected because as electricity passes through, it generates heat from the wires having resistance to electricity. As electrons pass through, they produce a kinetic energy that produces thermal energy. If not grounded this properly, electricity can start a fire or it can even cause electrocution. From the beginning of the 1900s, producers of electricity sought to find ways to produce it without some of the associated risks. 

How They Made It Safer

Because of the fibrous structure of asbestos, heat has a difficult time passing through this mineral. For that reason, it was thought to be the perfect insulation because it protected from heat. Not to mention, the low cost also made it the ideal substance to use. Company executives understood the dangers of this substance as early as the 1930s but they put profits above human wellbeing. As a result, the dangers were covered up until people began to develop lung cancer, asbestosis, ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. 

Several components are manufactured using asbestos including:

  • Ebonized asbestos-based panels
  • Asbestos-cement electrical shielding
  • Molded asbestos-cement bases
  • Asbestos-based electrical paper
  • Asbestos-based wire insulation
  • Asbestos-based cable wrap

Not as Dangerous as Other Types

Unlike some of the other forms of this substance, the risk of exposure was quite low because this way of using it is not friable and the toxicity is relatively low, provided it is left undisturbed. If disturbed, it can cause asbestos to become airborne and enter the lungs. When Thomas Edison first presented the lightbulb on October 14, 1878, entrepreneurs of the time knew electricity would be one of the biggest things that the world had ever seen. Eventually, everyone started to use asbestos-based products with the electrical components because it provided multiple benefits. Few people understood the dangers for the time.

Some of the people with the highest risk of exposure included homeowners, electricians and demolition crews because drilling, sawing or sanding into the product will cause these carcinogenic fibers to become airborne.

The dust is odorless and it can also get into clothes and endanger the lives of family or others who are in contact throughout the day through what is known as secondary exposure.