Asbestos exposure and mesothelioma: Power plant workers are at risk
Workers employed at power plants even today are at a high risk of developing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma cancer, which is always terminal. Residents of the surrounding areas of power plants can also be exposed to severe asbestos contamination.
Power plants require superior insulation, as a consequence of the high temperatures occurring in steam pipes and turbines. In the past, asbestos was the number one material chosen to provide this insulation.
Though research linking asbestos exposure to mesothelioma and other respiratory conditions has prompted strict regulations for the use of asbestos in the States, there are many American power plants that still contain alarming amounts of asbestos material.
Power plant workers include operators (in charge of boilers and generators), distributors (in charge of controlling the flow of electricity), and dispatchers (in charge of assessing power needs and managing capacity). Regardless of their position, such workers at power plants are exposed to asbestos, whenever it is present.
The main hazard for power plant workers has been the common occurrence of damaged asbestos and asbestos cutting and hammering, which involves the release of asbestos fibers that are then inhaled by everyone in the area. Asbestos dust used to be an everyday thing in old power plants, and this is still the case in many of them today. When protective gear was used, it commonly contained asbestos, further exposing workers to inhaling it, especially in the case of masks.
According to an article published in the British Journal of Industrial Medicine, “Studies of asbestos insulation workers have shown a higher than expected death rate due to malignant mesothelioma.” Based on studies carried out among power plant workers, the paper claims that the asbestos concentration is very high in the storerooms of power plants, and that the finding of “ferruginous bodies in the sputum of power station workers” would confirm the health hazards of asbestos in this occupation.
Another study of mesothelioma patients published in the same journal confirms the danger of occupational asbestos exposure at power plants.
Although the public is not so aware about the death toll of asbestos-related lung disease and mesothelioma when it comes to power plants, worldwide research has proven that millions of power plant workers all over the world may have been affected by their exposure to asbestos.