Three Mile Island
Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (so named because of its location on an island in the Susquehanna River three miles from Middletown, Pennsylvania. It is best known for the infamous nuclear accident on 28 March 1979, during which Unit 2 suffered a partial meltdown.
Originally financed by the General Public Utilities Corporation (GPU), Three Mile Island's Unit 1 (TMI-1) became operational in April 1974. Designed and built by Babcock and Wilcox, this reactor has a capability of over 800 megawatts. GPU merged with FirstEnergy Corporation in 2001. The plant is currently owned by the Exelon Corporation and is licensed to operate through 2014. An application to extend this through 2034 is currently under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Before 1980, virtually all industrial buildings and factories were constructed with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) because of its ability to block the transfer of heat and electricity as well as corrosive chemicals. The main concern was property damage; health hazards of asbestos were first suspected around 1900 and had been confirmed by the late 1930s, but corporations involved in the production and sale of ACMs did everything in their considerable power to suppress this information for over four decades.
Power plants have been identified as being particularly hazardous when it comes to asbestos exposure. This was highlighted in 2003; doctors in Puerto Rico studied the chest x-rays of 1100 power plant workers and found early signs of asbestos disease in more than 130 of them, even when tobacco use was taken into consideration.
Employees whose job sites contain asbestos now protected by EPA and OSHA rules and regulations. As recently as the late 1970s however, workers in asbestos environments carried out their duties without protective clothing or respirators. These same employees unwittingly carried asbestos dust into their homes on their clothes or in their hair when showers, putting their families at risk as well.
Asbestos diseases such as mesothelioma often do not show symptoms until decades after asbestos exposure first occurs. Anyone who worked at Gannon Power Plant, as well as family members, should discuss their history of exposure to asbestos with a primary care physician and receive regular health monitoring.
This installation was one of numerous factories, mills, power plants and worksites that, throughout the majority of the last century, used asbestos because of its ability to insulate against fire. It is ironic that protecting lives was typically one of the driving justifications for utilizing asbestos in companies because the outcome was actually to put employees at risk of serious illness due to asbestos exposure. The illnesses associated with asbestos exposure include asbestosis and cancer; the largest chance of developing these conditions happens when materials containing asbestos become friable, releasing strands into the environment where they are available to inhale or ingest. The most serious of the asbestos-linked disorders is pleural mesothelioma, which is a cancer that involves the cells lining the pleural cavity; it is a disease that usually kills within two years of diagnosis.
Those whose job sites contain asbestos today are generally protected from contact due to the extensive body of laws controlling its use, inclusion in products and disposal. Even as late as the 1970s, however, laborers without respiratory equipment all too often toiled in areas filled with airborne asbestos. Spouses were also exposed to asbestos if workplaces failed to provide showers, as workers inadvertently transported asbestos dust to their homes in their work garments.
Because asbestos-related illnesses such as asbestosis and mesothelioma often don't develop until 20 years or more after a person first is exposed to asbestos, men and women who worked at exposed sites, as well as their spouses and children, should discuss their history of asbestos contact with their medical care providers regardless of how far in the past they worked there. Individuals who believe they may have been negligently exposed should seek legal counsel from a mesothelioma attorney.
Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Terrifying True Story of How Asbestos is Killing America. New York: Touchstone, 2003.
Cabrera-Santiago, Manuel et al. "Prevalence of Asbestos-Related Disease Among Electrical Power Generation Workers in Puerto Rico." Presentation at American Public Health Association Annual Meeting, 2007.
Lang, Marlene. “A Corporate History of Three Mile Island.” Three Mile Island Alert.