The Catawba Nuclear Station is located on the shores of Lake Wylie in York County, South Carolina. This is an artificial lake constructed over a century ago by damming the Catawba River. This was done for another power plant, the Allen Steam Station. Catawba is under the joint ownership of the following entities:
- North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number One
- North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation
- Piedmont Municipal Power Agency
- Duke Energy, Inc.
Prior to the 1980s, factories, mills, power plants and other heavy industries such power generation facilities were constructed using asbestos-containing material (ACM) for its high resistance to heat and electricity as well as caustic and corrosive chemicals. Although the health risks of asbestos exposure were well known to medical researchers and industry insiders by the 1930s, corporations involved in the production and sale of ACMs did everything in their considerable power to suppress this information for over four decades.
Employees whose job sites contain asbestos now protected by EPA and OSHA rules and regulations that govern not only worker safety, but the general handling of asbestos as well. 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. Asbestos disease resulting from “secondary exposure” has been an issue in several recent legal actions.
A Puerto Rican study in 2003 highlighted the dangers of power plants. During this study, chest x-rays of 1100 workers were examined for signs of asbestos lung disease; such indications were noted in 13% of the subjects.
Asbestos diseases such as mesothelioma often do not show obvious show symptoms until decades after asbestos exposure first occurs – and these can mimic the symptoms of several other diseases, making diagnosis difficult. Anyone who worked at Shoz 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 countless factories, mills, power plants and worksites that, throughout much of the 1900s, utilized the naturally occurring mineral known as asbestos because of its ability to withstand flame. Although asbestos' strength as an insulator certainly saved lives, the unintended results of using it were tragic, and untold numbers of workers suffered serious illness because of asbestos exposure. The health conditions associated with exposure to asbestos include asbestosis and lung cancer; the largest chance of contracting these conditions happens when materials containing asbestos become fragile, releasing microfibers into the environment where they are easy to inhale or ingest. The most deadly of the asbestos-caused disorders is pleural mesothelioma, a type of cancer that involves the lining of the abdominal cavity; it is almost always a death sentence for those who contract it.
Those whose jobs put them in contact with asbestos today are usually protected from exposure due to the extensive body of laws regulating its utilization, inclusion in products and scrapping. Even up to the late 1900s, though, laborers commonly were told to operate in areas in which airborne asbestos was not filtered; in many cases, safety procedures were unknown. Spouses were also exposed to asbestos if employers failed to offer showers, as employees took asbestos dust to their homes in their clothes and hair.
Those who worked here at any time in their job history, as well as family members of such workers, are encouraged to learn more about these health conditions and inform their healthcare professionals about their history of exposure to asbestos, because the symptoms of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses are often difficult to distinguish from those of less serious conditions. Those who think they have been exposed negligently should seek legal counsel with a mesothelioma attorney.Sources
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.
Duke Energy Corporate Website. “Catawba Nuclear Station.”