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So I am redoing light fixtures in my 1946 house located in the USA. I guess I'm overly scared of asbestos, and just wondering on your opinion if this household branch wire is asbestos containing.

It is hard to find images on the internet showing examples of what is and what is not. I could get this tested, but at the same time, My exposure would be very limited I think.

Would it be worth while to mist the wires with water (electricity off) to reduce dust? How do you all deal with things like this?

enter image description here

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    Don't believe the hype... It's asbestos, not plutonium. The people sick from asbestos had occupational (daily) exposure for years. All the media (endless lawyer advertisements) is because there's an established fund for victims. The lawyer demands 1/3, promising he'll "fight for you", but all he does is have an intern tick a few boxes on a form and file it. The profit margin for lawyers is ridiculous, thus the hype. – Harper Jan 1 at 20:12
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I've been in the industry for over 40 years and have never heard of asbestos in the old wiring insulation. It is oil-impregnated cloth I believe. The more pressing problems that I see from your photo are that the cloth insulation may start to crumble off the copper conductors when you manipulate the wires and that the junction box appears to be overfilled. If the conductors have been run through metal conduit then you should be able to pull new wires if necessary. If the conductors are encased in armored cable conduit aka BX then you may need to call in a real sparky. If the box is indeed overfilled then you can install an extension ring and get creative with the fabrication of a little frame around the extension ring before installing the new fixture.

  • Thanks Daniel, the picture makes it look worse then it is, there seems to be some layer of rubberish substabce under the wrapping, while it looks cracked in places, i think it is just the outer cloth jacket. Half the house was redone years back, this is the untouched half that I'm hoping to leave as is for a bit. – MadHatter Jan 1 at 22:51
  • Good answer. I'd like to add, personally, that I would have put replacing that particular junction as a priority item on 2019's to-do-list - but OP has to weigh in other priority areas at own judgement - a house from the 40s is likely to have enough issues to fit a to-do list. – Stian Yttervik Jan 2 at 12:08
  • Crumbling is the problem here but it's not the cloth that is the big issue. The rubber insulation under the cloth becomes really brittle, cracks, and falls off. The key thing with this stuff is to try to avoid moving it around, especially bending and twisting. Easier said than done, I know. This is typically a problem in the box only (which isn't grounded) so wrapping the damaged conductors separately with electrical tape is basically all you can do other than replace it. – JimmyJames Jan 2 at 15:13
  • @StianYttervik It's likely that the OP has lots of stuff like this plus buried junctions and/or splices, and shared neutrals on non-obvious circuit pairs. Dealing with these as one-offs is probably not worth it. It's probably best to mitigate until the whole circuit or home can be fully rewired. Really doing it all is most efficient as the circuits from this ere tend to meander all over the place and you'll go nuts trying to figure out the path. – JimmyJames Jan 2 at 15:25
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Even if there is asbestos present in that box, I'd say the hazards of messing with the wiring are far greater than the asbestos exposure, you don't develop asbestosis from the trace exposure that would be possible here. A little reading of materials readily available online may give your concerns some perspective.

The insulation on old cloth covered wiring may be deteriorating to the point it's dangerous. It's generally best not to disturb it if you don't have to, and if you have to, be prepared to potentially create a very big job rewiring.

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