Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Photos and a question

First, the photos:

Really old cable.

Is it fiberglass or is it asbestos?

Now, the question:

This is really, really old cable. The cable we’ve used for, well, just about forever has rubber insulation, and this is clearly not rubber.

In a debate about what, exactly it was, half of Monday’s crew thought asbestos, and the other half thought some sort of fiberglass.

So, who’s right – or were we all wrong?

What the hell is this stuff and do I need to make a panicky call to my doctor because I got my face too close to it?

Filed under: Photos, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

16 Responses

  1. Kevin says:

    I vote asbestos – has that “I’m old, please leave me alone” look to it.

  2. Charli says:

    It looks like something from the attack of the body snatchers and I think you’ve been taken from planet earth, so sorry, you were such a nice gal, too.

  3. alan smithee says:

    It looks like the old cloth insulation from home electrical wiring.

  4. David H. says:

    I think I agree with Alan Smithee. To me, it actually looks like carpet fiber, so cloth insulation would make sense. It doesn’t quite look like asbestos, I don’t think.

  5. Judie says:

    My husband, a retired facilities engineer, votes asbestos.
    He said they used to use asbestos in just about everything, including water pipes. Good luck!

  6. TheBacklot says:

    You have to have prolonged exposure to asbestos for it to actually affect you, so don’t worry, being around a cable for fives minutes isn’t going to have an effect on you.

  7. Peter says:

    Even if it is asbestos there’s probably no reason to worry. Most of the danger from asbestos is associated with prolonged exposure.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Get a sample. There’s a lab over in Sun Valley that will analyze it for you.

  9. Fred says:

    Could be asbestos, not like any I’ve seen, but…

    -Even if it’s not the dreaded asbestos, it could still be a major irritant/hazardous constituent, so..

    Better safe than sorry:
    -As long as you don’t flap it around in the air or beat on it, raising dust, you’re at very minimal risk. As somebody already said, it’s really the long-term, high concentration exposure that hurts you.
    -In my industry (ships, shipyards, electrical systems, and power plants) we’re trained to cover exposed fibrous insulation material on pipes, heating surfaces, cables, etc. with, you guessed it, duct tape. It will prevent further flaking and possible airborne hazard. (Watch out for your shop’s rules and you may not need to do this, esp if you can just avoid the area) (We also then paint a “hard candy shell” of enamel paint over the tape and surrounding intact insulation to fix it in place if we have to do extensive work in the area or if it will be a long time till we can remove it. Then we let the highly-trained “man-made vitreous fiber removers” come and do their thing.)
    -Oh, and if you do tape it up, (completely your choice, not mine, not my fault if you create a haz-mat spill of stupendous proportions) be sure to tear off strips of tape and apply them individually instead of wrapping it while still on the roll. The wrapping from the roll method can create a cloud o’crap.

  10. Jim says:

    Does it burn? Lots of fibrous materials have been used as insulation over the years, and asbestos is but one. Jute (as in burlap sacks), cotton, linen, silk, horsehair, etc., have all been used. More recently (last 40 years), fiberglass,aka glass wool, in various forms has been used.

    Your photo looks like some sort of braided jacket over a fibrous core. Probably need to check both.

  11. C. says:

    Uh, have I told you how much I really enjoy reading your blog. It’s nice that someone knows what it’s like behind the scenes and in my armpits too.

  12. Dan says:

    They used asbestos in absolutely everything for the last 100 years until about 1970 when they started to find better replacements. It’s a fire retardant, perfect for heavy electrical insulation. In fact, if people think it’s insulation, it probably is: asbestos insulation! Only one way to find out for sure:

    No amount of Asbestos particles are safe, but if you don’t screw with it, it won’t become airborne. I’d call OSHA and let them know.

  13. Chris says:

    Asbestos, when woven into a cloth, is far less dangerous than what is called “friable” asbestos, which is the crumbly stuff that they used to use to insulate steam pipes (like the ones in my parents house in New England).

    Asbestos panels are fine, too, as long as you don’t attack it with an angle grinder and send a bunch of dust into the air.

    solid or woven: okay

    don’t screw with any of it.

  14. alikeasbestos says:

    I don’t agree with the last comment: Whether woven or not, it’s still considered as “friable” (even if the risks are smaller).

    As Fred says, it’s best to protect it with some tape (or spray some glue on it). And if you’re not permanently around this thing, there is only very very little risk for your health.

    Would be great however to have a sample analysed in a laboratory.

  15. mark says:

    You already seem sensable to ask about it,
    i wouldnt go messign around with it if you dont need to, and you should get it looked at my a qualified asbestos tester.
    Its not worth the risk to your life, and you said you was worried about going near it.

    chances everyone who reads this would of inhaled asbesos without even knowing it, example like when they turn on their hairdryers on, visiting a home or workplace or publick place whith it flowing in the air, or playing in dusty places a children.
    even break discs on cars used to contain it, not so long ago, and fine particals would hit the air has cars would drive past.

    on the grand scheme of things you exposure is super small.

  16. At
    you ask about asbestos on wiring

    I’ve worked a long time on identifying asbestos containing materials (see
    and would much like to see high resolution copies of your photos
    and more,
    to see a physial sample of the material you’re questioning – I can examine it in our forensic lab (my cost not yours) if you can still obtain a sample for me.

    The cloth covering looks to me like some asbestos fabrics I’ve seen in other applications, but
    one cannot say from these little photos – lab work would be needed.

    Certainly asbestos was used as electrical wire insulation on theater wiring, especially in ceilings where lighting was being wired and heat and fire
    were ar real concern. I’ve personally seen asbestos insulated electrical wires in the ceiling of an old theater in Wappingers Falls, NY,.

    The advice you got from some readers, about risking your life, was probably an exaggerated concern.

    Airborne asbestos is a well-known hazard, but the level of risk depends on the friability of the material, its location, its condition, and how much it’s likely to be disturbed. The total volume of a few abestos wires is probably not going to produce any meaningful airborne asbestos fiber level, but IF someone were demolishing an old theater and stirring things up, indeed it would deserve more professional attention. Otherwise I’d be more worried about the electrical wiring safety itself.

    Daniel Friedman

    Peggy sez: Although you can find high-res photos on Flickr, I’m not able to personally obtain a sample for you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Copyright 2004 - 2009
All Rights Reserved


Not blogs, but cool

%d bloggers like this: