Power Plant Workers at High Risk for Asbestos Exposure

As the only known cause of mesothelioma, asbestos poses severe health risks to those who were exposed to the toxic mineral. The hazard is exponentially higher for individuals who worked in industrial or commercial occupations where the carcinogenic fibers permeated the materials that workers frequently used on the job. Power plants were one such industry […]

As the only known cause of mesothelioma, asbestos poses severe health risks to those who were exposed to the toxic mineral. The hazard is exponentially higher for individuals who worked in industrial or commercial occupations where the carcinogenic fibers permeated the materials that workers frequently used on the job.

Power plants were one such industry where laborers were prime candidates for asbestos exposure.  Heavily relied on for its fire-retardant properties, asbestos was a prominent element in plant machinery such as giant generators, turbines, boilers and gaskets. As a result, many former power-plant workers have developed malignant mesothelioma.

Operating asbestos-laden equipment was not the only hazard faced by power plant workers of the early and mid-1900s; the pipes, flooring, walls and ceilings of plants also often contained the fibers. Repairing machinery that incorporated asbestos also disturbed the fibers, sending strands into the air where they were ingested by laborers.

Asbestos from power plants was not solely contained in the worksite. The fibers often were transported home on the employees’ clothing, in turn reaching their family members. This secondhand asbestos exposure led to a devastating mesothelioma diagnosis for individuals who did not otherwise encounter the mineral.

Once inhaled or swallowed, strands of asbestos can become lodged in the lining of internal organs.  Typically, symptoms of mesothelioma do not arise until 20 to 50 years after original exposure. As a result, those exposed to asbestos at a power plant before the 1960s and ’70s when regulatory laws were vague or nonexistent are now prime candidates for a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Although the vast majority of plants have undergone government regulated removal programs in the last several decades, power plant employees who suspect that they were exposed to asbestos on the job are urged to immediately contact their health care provider and discuss their medical history.

 

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