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I'm asking about the old long white coaxial cables that are used on tvs. I notice the white insulation jacket is harder than the soft pvc jackets that most electrical devices use.

Specifically what material is it and does it off gas anything like the pvc jackets do even if in small amounts.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just old PVC. Gets hard and brittle with age. \$\endgroup\$
    – Passerby
    Apr 5, 2020 at 23:45

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It's the same stuff as other electrical cable insulation. And just as that, the structure of the stuff changes, plasticizers evaporate or decay, and the thing gets brittle. So, probably, vinyl.

Good news is that if it's stiff, the plasticizer is largely gone, so now you have stiff, brittle PVC that doesn't off-gas anymore. Also, you'd want to reach the EU reports that were written before the REACH directive, which now severely limits the use of many plasticizers that were popular back-in-the-day. It's not likely that you or anyone in your household is under acute risk of anything due to having lived in a house with a coax cable.

Downside of not containing any plasticizers anymore is that it's brittle and won't fulfill its role as isolator anymore. Also, depending on the construction and use of the cable, it might have had a barrier function against water vapor, which tends to damage the dielectric (the white stuff between inner and outer conductor, not the stuff outside the outer conductor of your coax).

It probably strikes you more on coax cables than on the usual power cords because it's a rather thin layer directly on a thick-diameter metal core, as opposed to the 2 to 5 mm of total polymer until you strike the copper of a power cord.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I am a sensitive individual and react to pvc insulation jackets so I just cover it with foil paper. Its gone brittle but still has an odour to it. Would this suggest it still has some of the now outlawed plasticizers in it so despite being brittle I should get a new one? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 6, 2020 at 0:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ no, it doesn't suggest that, since these are odorless. If these cables smell, then because they absorbed a smell, or by the power of suggestion. Which, by the way, is the same way wrapping your cables in foil paper helps: it actually doesn't help against evaporation of anything at all, but it helps you deal with your sensitivity. You'll want to speak to an expert on dealing with such impairments, assuming you can't find a medical treatment for that. Such experts in dealing with things one is subject to and can't change are behavioural psychologists, they usually work as psychotherapists. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 6, 2020 at 0:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ (if they are brittle, all plasticizer really is long, long gone, don't worry about it.) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 6, 2020 at 0:34

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