Asbestos

Asbestos in Power Plants

Power plants are extremely important to Americans nationwide. Facilities are run by employees working constantly to ensure a constant supply of electricity.

There are three primary areas in power plants in which asbestos was widely used. One such area was the buildings themselves that housed all the equipment. Building insulation containing asbestos was actually quite common up until the late 1970s and early 80s, when the truth about the health hazards of asbestos began to be widely known. The inside of floors, walls and ceilings were likely to have been sprayed with a product called Monokote, which contained a large amount of asbestos.

The machinery itself - large generators, boiler and steam pipes and turbines - was also sprayed and coated or lined with asbestos insulation in much the same fashion as sea-going vessels, which had similar equipment. In addition to pipe and equipment lagging (insulation), gaskets were necessary for the pipe fittings. Made from asbestos sheets, these were often cut to fit right on the jobsite by power plant workers themselves.

Finally, there was the electrical wiring and huge electrical conduits themselves. "Blue" crocidolite asbestos is particularly non-reactive and highly resistant to electrical current. It is also the deadliest variety of asbestos. Whereas the white chrysotile variety is relatively soft (but can still scar the inside of the lungs, causing asbestosis and pleural calcification), crocidolite consists of hard, needle-like fibers that literally drill their way through soft lung tissue and emerge into the pleural lining, causing cells to mutate and become cancerous.

Workers at Risk

The three main types of workers in power plants that faced the greatest risk of asbestos exposure include:

Operators: These workers are responsible for running and monitoring the boilers as well as the generators and turbines that actually produce electrical current.

Distributors: It is the responsibility of these people to work with the equipment that controls the actual flow of current, such as converters, transformers and circuit breakers.

Dispatchers: As the title suggests, dispatchers route the current to those areas with the greatest need in the proper amounts, based on factors such as demand, necessity and weather conditions.

One of the greatest tragedies occurred when power plant workers unknowingly brought these deadly fibers into the home on their work clothes and in their hair. This resulted in secondary exposure to family members. Sadly, spouses and children who were susceptible to the disease often developed asbestos cancer even when the primary worker did not.

The U.S. government began issuing "health advisories" regarding asbestos as early as 1943. However, these did not have the force of law, and were frequently ignored by management as well as workers. It was not until 1977 when a litigation attorney named Karl Asch discovered documentation that revealed the corporate conspiracy to suppress knowledge of asbestos health hazards - a criminal conspiracy that dated back to the 1930s.

Since then, new regulations have required public and private utilities to remove asbestos from power generation facilities wherever possible and to "encapsulate" it where removal is not possible. The encapsulation process involves sealing asbestos insulation with a plastic resin so that it does not become friable - which is to say, the insulation does not begin to crumble and release fibers into the environment.

While modern power plants are much safer places in which to work - thanks in large part to government regulation and massive asbestos abatement programs - those who were employed in and around electrical generation facilities prior to 1980 should have frequent check-ups. Symptoms of mesothelioma usually do not appear until several decades after initial exposure, by which time treatment may be very difficult.

The good news is that new diagnostic technologies are enabling physicians to detect this vicious disease in its early stages when it is highly treatable. 1800Asbestos.com offers a complimentary information packet about mesothelioma and asbestos. Please fill out the packet request form on this page to receive your packet overnight.

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