Asbestos was hailed as a “miracle mineral” due to its fire retardant and insulative properties – good marketing helped as well. In the 1930s through 1960s when other insulators like rubber or ceramics were too costly to use, asbestos sometimes took its place in electric insulation, most notably in electrical wire insulation. While not as prevalent as the other uses of asbestos in building construction, asbestos electrical insulation can be hard to find and identify.
Types of Asbestos Electrical Insulation
Unlike with fill insulation, asbestos that was used in electrical insulation wasn’t used as-is. Instead, it was usually infused into another material, such as cloth or even paper to have the flexibility needed to follow the wire.
- Asbestos Insulated Wire: This normally includes asbestos impregnated in some sort of textile, then wrapped or braided around the wire or cable, sometimes with a second textile wrapped around it for added durability.
- Asbestos Varnished Cloth Wire: Asbestos impregnated cord (usually cotton) that is braided around a wire and then varnished to improve durability. Visually indistinguishable from other varnished cloth wires that did not use asbestos.
- Asbestos Paper: Asbestos-infused paper is sometimes used in miniature electrical units, and therefore can be found in old appliances as a separator between electronic components, or as a wire wrapping.
Dealing with Asbestos Electrical Insulation
As mentioned above, it can be challenging to know what wiring does and does not contain asbestos. The standard rules are to get the suspect components tested for asbestos, and until hearing back to treat it like it does. There are two areas to particularly focus on:
Caution with Old Electronics
With electronic devices between the 1940s and 1970, there’s a chance they contain asbestos. In particular, the electrical cords are often the first point of failure for these devices and can release asbestos fibers. Take care when handling or disposing of older electronics.
Disposal During Renovation
Thinking about tearing down a wall? If that wall contains asbestos wiring (or asbestos thermal insulation for that matter), you could be releasing asbestos into your home. As with all renovations, make sure your contractors are trained in asbestos handling, and work to identify and dispose of such materials properly.
If you’re worried about asbestos or your contractor has discovered the presence of it in electronics, insulation, vinyl, or more, we can help. Fiber Control, Inc. are experts in asbestos identification and abatement. Contact us today to learn about your options when it comes to removing this material.