A common laminate material used in residential and commercial construction was Micarta, a product manufactured and trademarked by Norplex-Micarta. The substance is a composite of plastic and cloth or cloth-like materials, such as linen, canvas, paper, or, in this case, asbestos. Currently, it is popularly used in knife handles, but it has many different applications, including electrical insulation. Micarta benefited for many years from asbestos because of the insulating properties it possessed.
Asbestos Micarta soon became a very popular material to use because of its high resistance to heat and flexibility. It became so popular companies were using it for residential and commercial electrical installations. Asbestos Micarta also became popular to use in electrical components needed in heavy equipment and automotive industries.
As with other types of material that contain the mineral, asbestos Micarta is not dangerous in its nature. It only becomes dangerous once it begins to age and deteriorate. The material used for electrical components can also be disrupted during renovations to the structure or changes to the electrical service being provided. The fibers in asbestos Micarta can break free during these repairs or service and form a fine dust looking substance. This substance can cause life-threatening illnesses if inhaled.
Asbestos Micarta was used for many years before the United States finally banned the use of this material in 1977. Numerous health and safety warnings went out about the harmful material, but companies with an existing supply of asbestos Micarta were allowed to use the material until they ran out. This went on for ten more years and companies used it well into the 1980’s. Though Micarta is now manufactured with other resins and fibers, some residential or commercial buildings may contain asbestos Micarta in their electrical components and may not even be aware this harmful material is there.