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Electricians - Mesothelioma Risks

Among those who have a higher-than-average occupational risk for developing mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos, electricians rank very near the top. Electricians, who are professionals trained in the installation, connection, repair and maintenance of electrical systems in either a commercial or residential capacity, are often involved in new construction of all kinds of buildings. They are also vital during the renovation, addition or upgrade phases of construction.

Asbestos has been widely used in a number of products utilized by the construction industry, including a reinforcing, binding, or insulating agent in cement and plastic products; plaster and drywall; floor tiles and ceiling tiles; roofing products; electrical cloth; electrical panel partitions; and insulation of all sorts, including electrical wiring insulation.

Several factors put electricians in contact with these products, and therefore at risk for asbestos exposure and mesothelioma. First, electricians deal with live electrical wires, which carry a risk of fire, and are often insulated with asbestos-containing materials. Second, they are often required to work with wiring that is concealed behind walls, which means that the electrician is compelled to cut holes in the walls. They may come into contact with asbestos-containing drywall or insulation by doing so. Lastly, electricians may face asbestos exposure simply by being on the construction site, where any number of these asbestos products may be in use.

Mesothelioma, a rare cancer which is nearly always caused by asbestos exposure, occurs when the asbestos fibers become airborne and are inhaled. These fibers, which are invisible to the human eye because they are microscopic, can be sharp and needlelike, and can therefore penetrate the lungs and other soft tissues when they are inhaled. If they penetrate the membrane which covers the lungs, stomach or heart, or the membrane which lines the chest or abdominal cavity, they may develop into the rare form of asbestos cancer mesothelioma.

One of the most unusual, and challenging, attributes of mesothelioma is that it can take a very long time for its symptoms to develop. In fact, it's not uncommon for people who contract mesothelioma through their occupational environment to be diagnosed with the disease as long as 20 to 50 years after beginning their career.

When the symptoms - shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, chest pain, coughing up blood, and fatigue - do become evident, they are often mistaken for symptoms of emphysema, bronchitis, or even influenza. Many cases of mesothelioma are initially misdiagnosed. If your physician is aware that you have worked around asbestos for a portion of your career, however, it may make a correct diagnosis more likely.

In its early stages, mesothelioma can be treated with surgery; yet because of this long latency period, most cases are not diagnosed until later stages, at which point they will have become inoperable. Radiation, chemotherapy, pain medication, and alternative treatments can be provided for palliative purposes, but the main goal at the end-stage of mesothelioma is to keep the patient as comfortable as possible.

If you've worked as an electrician, be sure to advise your physician about your possible exposure to asbestos, and be aware of the signs of mesothelioma.

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Workers at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

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

Last Edited: Thu November 14, 2013