Located in Holiday, Florida, the Anclote Power Plant has two units with a total generative capacity of over 1.1 gigawatts.
Although it is not known if Anclote itself is an asbestos site, it is a matter of record that virtually all electrical power generation facilities constructed before the 1980s containing large amounts of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).
Before that time, the health hazards of asbestos were largely unknown, although industry insiders at Raysbestos, W.R. Grace, Johns-Manville and other asbestos manufacturers had been well aware of the facts since the 1930s. In 1977, a plaintiff's attorney in an asbestos case discovered papers that outlined the four-decade conspiracy to keep the public ignorant of asbestos dangers.
Flame, excessive heat and electricity are all hazards at power generation plants. Because of this, power generation facilities made extensive use of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in their construction; such materials could also be used in the turbine machinery itself. Other asbestos hazards include:
- electrical cloth
- fire doors
- pipe and conduit lagging
- work surfaces
When these materials became friable (a crumbling state in which fibers are released into the environment), the resulting asbestos dust was not only inhaled, but could become lodged in workers' hair and clothing, subjecting unsuspecting family members to the hazards of secondary exposure.
In 2003, medical researchers in Puerto Rico examined chest x-rays from 1100 power plant workers. Signs of asbestos disease were seen in 13% of the subjects. Power plants are considered to be among the most hazardous industrial jobsites when it comes to asbestos by industrial safety experts. This danger was tragically extended to family members as well. Asbestos dust often became lodged in the hair and on the clothing of workers, who then unwittingly brought the substance home. Several recent asbestos cases have centered on instances of asbestos cancers resulting from such secondary exposure.
Those who were employed at such facilities prior to the early 1980s should discuss this with a medical professional if possible and receive frequent check-ups. Asbestos diseases such as mesothelioma have long latency periods; symptoms may not be apparent until several decades after such exposure. However, new tests allow pathologists to test for the protein “markers” that are indicative of the early stages of such cancers. Early detection and treatment can mean a much better mesothelioma prognosis, although lifetime monitoring is usually required.
In the first two-thirds of the 20th century, it was standard practice for industrial sites of all types to be constructed with the naturally occurring, fibrous mineral known as asbestos because of its insulating properties. Although asbestos' strength as an insulator undoubtedly protected people and property in the short term, the eventual consequences of its use were tragic, and numerous laborers suffered serious illness because of inhalation of or other contact with asbestos. The disorders caused by exposure to asbestos include pleural plaques and cancer; the greatest risk of developing these conditions occurs when materials containing asbestos become friable, releasing particles into the environment where they are available to inhale. Also, workplace exposure to asbestos is the primary cause of the almost always fatal cancer called mesothelioma, which affects the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the chest cavity (pleural mesothelioma) or the stomach (peritoneal mesothelioma).
Today, we understand the dangers associated with being exposed to asbestos, and government regulations ensure the well-being of people whose jobs put them in contact with this dangerous substance. Even up to the late 1900s, though, laborers all too often were told to operate in spaces in which asbestos dust was not filtered; in many cases, the dangers posed by asbestos inhalation were little understood. Moreover, employees took asbestos particles to their homes on their clothes or in their hair when showers weren't provided at the workplace; as a result, this carcinogen also put at risk offspring of those who worked near asbestos.
Those who were employed here at any time in their job history, as well as those who lived with them, are encouraged to find out about these health conditions and tell their family doctors about their history of contact with asbestos, because the symptoms of asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma disease are often mistaken for those of other, less serious conditions.Sources
Bowker, Michael. Deadly Deception (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.
Cortera. "Anclote Power Plant."