I need to install new lighting and old cloth wiring has tested positive for ACM. I am not doing the work myself, I am hiring an electrician but I will let him know what I have found. Is there any special precautions he should take.

  • 3
    Exposure to tiny amounts of Asbestos is not a problem. it's not Plutonium. Sep 26, 2022 at 19:39
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    Keep in mind that cloth wiring is generally a problem for reasons that have 0 to do with asbestos and 100% to do with 70+ year old natural rubber being exposed to degrading conditions...(imagine a natural rubber tyre that old, and just how rotten/shot that'd be) Sep 27, 2022 at 3:47
  • For what it's worth: My wife & I just spent a few hours this past weekend pulling siding off our house in preparation for an addition. I highly suspect that the siding has asbestos in it. We wore KN95 masks (which don't actually protect against asbestos - it says so on the package) and eye protection. We did our best to avoid breaking the pieces of siding, but many broke anyway. We took showers when we were done & threw the clothes straight into the washer. We'll live. So will you. Do tell the electrician so he can take precautions he decides are necessary.
    – FreeMan
    Sep 27, 2022 at 13:36
  • KN95 masks (which don't actually protect against asbestos - it says so on the package) Actually, any half-way decent mask (and the K95 much more than the basic masks) will block a lot, though probably not 95%. But unless tested - and testing costs a fortune - they can't claim that and in fact have to state (effectively) the opposite. Since any mask manufacturer has been able to sell all the masks they want for the past 2-1/2 years, why test for anything extra? And the companies that make tested/certified asbestos PPE get to charge a lot more for that. Therefore, different product lines. Oct 31, 2022 at 0:23

2 Answers 2


Turn off the breaker. Since older wiring often has faults or simply unmarked MWBCs (which cannot be detected by voltage testers), I suggest turning off the main breaker.

For the other risk, look into what Neil DeGrasse Tyson says about "political truths", i.e. if something is repeated often enough the human brain goes "must be true". And obviously, it isn't.

It turns out there actually is a health risk associated with asbestos, but you have to be a career laborer working around asbestos dust. Because of this, companies responsible for such laborers set up trust funds to pay out claims for affected workers. There's a tiny amount of legal work involved in getting a claim. As for publicizing the existence of these trust funds, they decided to leave that to the free market.

The result is dirty lawyers carpet-bombing media with ads trying to identify and retain anyone who worked with asbestos, so they can lock in potential clients, so they can collect a 1/3 contingency fee for ticking a few boxes on some forms.

The side effect of this "feeding frenzy" is triggering that "political truth" that Tyson speaks of. "Surely asbestos must be more dangerous than dioxin, since it gets more press!" ... Occasional, incidental exposure to non-dusty asbestos a few times in a lifetime is simply not a risk factor. At all.

If you really want to, you can wear any quality COVID-spread-prevention mask, and wipe down the work area afterwards.


Lawyers in my field are definitely guilty of what has been said here and elsewhere regarding the profession. What's the joke, what do you call a thousand lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start. Badum bump.

The basic fact is no exposure to asbestos dust should be considered "safe." Your electrician (if he's licensed) will likely already have experience donning PPE for asbestos work. Frankly, I would advise taking precautions with any cloth wiring. But I also wouldn't pretend the sky is falling.


The latency of symptoms from asbestos exposure is decades, 20-to-50 years, and in the vast majority of cases stems from years of contact. At the same time, secondary exposure to asbestos is real. I have clients who were spouses and children of people who worked with asbestos.

Remember, better safe than sorry. Asbestos fibers don't dissolve. There's NO KNOWN safe level of exposure, but, again, it needs to be airborne. Just touching the wire won't hurt you, but taking a belt sander to it would suggest you're a few eggs short of a dozen.

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