I just found this wire while changing the light switches at a house I bought (built in 1960).

The long "fiber" on the left looks awfully suspicious, is this asbestos?


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2 Answers 2


That's the old, old silver fabric covered wire. It was very commonly used and is still functioning in many residences. It normally doesn't get replaced unless there are renovations being done, and then only in the areas being renovated. I seriously doubt that that particular wire contains any asbestos. Asbestos was used usually for high temperature installations, not for general residential or commercial wiring.

The only way to be 100% sure is to have it tested.

  • 7
    Or burn a small piece. Fabric burns, asbestos turns white hot without charring. Jun 20 at 23:21
  • 11
    +1. Among other things, asbestos fibers are not long. Jun 21 at 0:49
  • "The asbestos was used usually for high temperature installations, not for general residential or commercial wiring." Depends on the region, I've seen many houses where it was put in residential roofing, especially between 1945 and 1978.
    – Mast
    Jun 21 at 16:12
  • 2
    @Mast roofing != wiring
    – Glen Yates
    Jun 21 at 19:54
  • 2
    @GlenYates and residential roofing also is not "high temperature". Asbestos' long strands were excellent at reinforcing the thin cement sheets in roofing and siding, and the thicker 4x8 sheets and corrugated panels. It's darned useful stuff...
    – RonJohn
    Jun 22 at 7:00

Asbestos is not a poison, it's a lung irritant that affected mostly ship builders and others that worked around asbestos day after day. And YES, it did foster asbestosis, a dangerous and usually fatal cancer. But for very very minimal exposure, it's not going to hurt you. Lawyers have cashed in on this, scaring everybody crazy about the slightest exposure.

If you are really paranoid about it, when you work on the wires/cables, with the power off of course, wet it down and work with gloves, dry it before you re-install the switch or outlet. I personally wouldn't bother with any of that, but if you are totally AR, there is no issue with additional protection. I just don't think it's needed.

  • 18
    This does not in any way answer the question.
    – ghellquist
    Jun 21 at 7:17
  • 5
    @ghellquist I disagree with your comment. my answer provided a lot of useful information, while not directly answering the question, my comments re-framed the question into something more meaningful. Jun 21 at 12:18
  • 2
    Also, these days everyone should have an abundant supply of N95 or KN95 masks, making working with potential particulate hazards a breeze compared to the past. Jun 21 at 12:31
  • 3
    @gidds if the op wet it down, there would be virtually no chance of any contamination, be even if there were, it would be so tiny an amount, it wouldn't matter, this isn't Plutonium. Up until the mid 70s asbestos was commonly used in sheetrock mud as well as the infamous popcorn ceilings. If you're working around that, as in scraping the ceiling or remodeling, yeah, containment and special procedures are def. needed. Jun 21 at 14:52
  • 2
    Asbestosis is not a cancer, although it does increase the risk of lung cancer.
    – jaskij
    Jun 21 at 18:38

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