The Cameo Power Plant is a coal and natural gas powered generating plant located in Mesa County, Colorado. Two units of the plant provide over 73 megawatts of power to 5000 customers in and around Grand Junction. It is one of fifteen Colorado facilities owned and operated by Xcel Energy, Inc.
The facility uses filters known as “baghouses” in order to remove particulates from flues before they the environment. Nonetheless, high levels of nitrogen oxide are emitted.
Because of Colorado Governor Bill Ritter's 2007 “Climate Action Plan,” greenhouse emissions are to be reduced by 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. The Cameo Power Plant is one of two coal-fired plants scheduled for closure over the next few years, hopefully to be replaced by cleaner-burning alternatives. Currently, Xcel plans to spend $4.5 million to test solar power technology at Cameo.
A 2003 research study by doctors in Puerto Rico study published in 2007 confirms what industrial health and safety experts have been said for many years: power plants are a leading source of asbestos exposure. In the study, 1100 chest x-rays from power plant workers were examined; over 130 showed “abnormalities” suggesting the early stages of asbestos disease.
Asbestos-containing materials were used as insulation throughout the construction of power generating facilities as well as other industries where heat, flame, electricity and corrosive chemicals were a hazard. Over time, these materials became brittle and began to crumble into dust. These fibers were not only inhaled and ingested by employees, but became lodged in the hair and clothing as well, resulting in secondary exposure for family members.
Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear for decades following initial asbestos exposure. Anyone who worked at the Cameo facility as well as their family members should discuss this issue with their primary care physician. Thanks to recent tools made available by a Japanese biotech firm and recently approved by the FDA for use in the U.S., pathologists can now detect the markers of mesothelioma in its earliest stages when it is most treatable.
During much of the last century, it was extremely common for industrial sites of all types to be built with the naturally occurring, fibrous mineral known as asbestos because of its resistance to heat, flame and electrical current. While asbestos' strength as an insulator certainly protected people from injury and even death, the unforeseen results of its use were tragic, and far too many men and women contracted serious illness because of inhalation of or other contact with asbestos. The reason for this is that particles of asbestos, when inhaled, embed themselves into internal organs, leading to serious health conditions including asbestosis and cancer of the lungs. Also, mesothelioma disease, the nearly always fatal cancer of the cells that line the chest cavity, is known to be caused by mild to moderate exposure to asbestos.
Now, we are aware of the dangers associated with being exposed to asbestos, and health and safety statutes ensure the well-being of employees whose jobs put them in contact with this dangerous substance. In earlier days, though, workers commonly were forced to operate in spaces in which air filled with asbestos dust was unfiltered; in most cases, the risks of asbestos exposure were little understood. If companies didn't provide showers, employees carried strands of asbestos home with them in their clothes and hair, thereby exposing family members to this deadly toxin.
Since asbestos-related illnesses like asbestosis and mesothelioma often do not manifest until a very long time after a person first is exposed to asbestos. Early diagnosis is key to a more favorable mesothelioma prognosis. Therefore, those who worked at contaminated sites, as well as their family members, are encouraged to discuss their history of asbestos contact with their medical care providers no matter how long ago they worked there.Sources
National Resources Defense Council (2005). “Asthma and Air Pollution.”
Proctor, Cathy (2008). “Xcel Takes Unusual Step to Shut Down Coal Power Plants.” Denver Business Journal.
Xcel Energy. “Cameo Station.”