Resources for Patients and their Families

Cholla Power Plant

The coal-fired Cholla Power Plant, owned jointly by APS and PacifiCorp, is located near the northeastern Arizona community of Holbrook. Fuel is supplied by the nearby McKinley Mine in New Mexico.

Cholla has a total generation capacity of 995 megawatts among four generation units. The joint ownership is the result of a corporate partnership in which APS owns three of the units and PacifiCorp owns the fourth. As the latter is based primarily in the Pacific Northwest, the arrangement allows power to be transferred north during the winter months and south in the summer during times of peak demands in the two regions.


All types power plants from coal-fired to hydro-powered have historically made extensive use of asbestos insulation. The reason is that asbestos is resistant to heat and flame as well as electrical current. While asbestos-containing materials may have saved lives and prevented massive property loss over the past century, those who contracted asbestos diseases have suffered disproportionately.

Asbestos illness was shown to be a serious work-related hazard for power plant employees when in 2003, a Puerto Rican medical research team examined chest x-rays from 1100 such workers. 13% of the x-rays showed indications of possible mesothelioma disease.

Machinery that includes generators, boilers and turbine combustion engines as well as thermal control devices have all been insulated with asbestos at a time when the health hazards of asbestos were kept secret from the general public by the corporations that manufactured and marketed asbestos products. The truth was finally revealed in 1977, when the infamous “Sumner Simpson Papers” were discovered in the corporate office of Raysbestos, Inc. The evidence proved the existence of a cover-up going back to the 1930s.

Today, the EPA and OSHA have issued strict regulations to protect workers as well as the handling of asbestos in general. However, asbestos diseases take decades to become apparent, at which time they have reached an advanced stage.

Thanks to new diagnostic methods, pathologists today are able to detect the early signs of asbestos disease. Former power plant employees should discuss asbestos exposure with their primary care physicians and be checked as often as possible. Mesothelioma prognosis can be encouraging when the disease is in its early stages but invariably fatal in their latter ones.

Because of its insulating properties, asbestos could frequently be found within almost all factories, mills, power plants and worksites throughout the US. While asbestos' abilities as an insulator certainly saved lives, the unintended consequences of using it were tragic: thousands of workers contracted serious illness from asbestos exposure. The illnesses linked to asbestos include asbestosis and cancer of the lungs; the greatest risk of developing these conditions happens when asbestos-containing products become fragile, releasing particles into the air where they are easy to inhale or ingest. The most deadly of the asbestos-linked diseases is mesothelioma, a cancer that involves the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the chest cavity; it is a disease that usually kills within two years of diagnosis.

Because research has demonstrated the link between inhaling asbestos and illnesses like lung cancer, today's laborers are protected by health and safety statutes that prescribe how asbestos is handled. People who worked near job sites constructed with asbestos before such rules were implemented, on the other hand, commonly spent their shifts in spaces where asbestos was prevalent, and they typically were offered very little training about how to work safely with the substance. In addition, workers brought asbestos home with them on their work clothes when showers weren't provided at the company; the consequence of this was that the potentially deadly mineral also put at risk children of those who worked around asbestos.

Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses frequently take decades to appear, and the symptoms of these disorders are often mistaken for those of other conditions; therefore, those who were employed at these installations at any time in their job history, as well as family members of such workers, are encouraged to chat with their physicians about their history of asbestos contact.



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.

APS. “Cholla.”

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