Survivors Book

Electrical Linemen & Cablemen - Mesothelioma Risks

Electrical line and cablemen are among those who were routinely exposed to asbestos on the job for much of the twentieth century; unfortunately, those who perform these jobs may be experiencing continued exposure, even today.

Asbestos has been used throughout history, but never more so than in the decades between the Industrial Revolution and the 1970s. With military, commercial, industrial and residential applications, asbestos became nearly ubiquitous as an insulating and building material. It was used in everything from concrete and drywall, to toasters and coffeemakers. Part of its value and versatility came from the fact that it is not only strong, lightweight, flexible and durable, but also extremely resistant to heat and fire.

These qualities made it a boon to the electrical industry, and it was used in the manufacture of insulators on electrical lines, as well as in wiring and electrical conduits. Moreover, it could also be encountered while installing electrical lines, whether underneath the home, or in the attic crawl space - both places where insulation might be present. One of asbestos's most common uses was as a component of household insulation.

No matter where an electrical lineman or cableman encountered the asbestos-containing materials, the risks were the same. Asbestos exposure has been linked to a number of debilitating and fatal diseases, including the rare cancer mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium, or the membrane that surrounds the internal organs and also lines the body cavities such as the abdominal or chest cavity. Besides protecting the organs, the mesothelium also produces a special fluid that allows the lungs and other organs to move freely. Since it is a soft tissue, the mesothelium can easily be penetrated by the sharp, needle-like fibers of deteriorating asbestos, if those fibers - which are microscopic - are swallowed or inhaled. When this happens, malignant cells develop. The mesothelioma has begun to take hold of the body, although it may not be diagnosed for years, or even decades, to come - this rare form of cancer has an extremely long latency period.

When it is eventually diagnosed, mesothelioma has most likely reached an advanced stage, either Stage III or Stage IV. Mesothelioma is only operable in Stage I, when it is still localized. As with all cancers, therefore, the earlier mesothelioma can be diagnosed, the better the prognosis and hope for treatment and recovery.

If surgery is not an option for the mesothelioma patient, there are other palliative remedies that can be provided. Traditional treatments for cancer such as chemotherapy and radiation can provide some relief from the painful symptoms of the disease, and a procedure called thoracentesis can be performed to remove some of the fluid from the space between the lungs and the chest wall, in order to make the patient more comfortable and relieve their shortness of breath.

Anyone who has worked as an electrical lineman or cableman should be aware of the signs and symptoms of mesothelioma, and should let their physician know about any possible previous exposure to asbestos.


Workers at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

Below are a list of occupations and trades that were at risk for asbestos exposure:

Last Edited: Sun July 26, 2020