The Craig Power Station near the community of Craig, Colorado is the largest coal-fired electrical generating facility in the state. Located on 1,120 acres, the plant employs over than 300 workers. The facility is operated by Tri-State Generation, Inc. and has a total generative capacity of nearly 1.3 gigawatts. Coal used to operate the facility is obtained from local sources, while water used for the steam turbines is drawn from the nearby Yampa River.
Doctors in Puerto Rico published a study in 2007, confirming that which industrial health and safety experts have said for many years; power plants pose some of the highest risks of workplace asbestos exposure of any industry. In the study that was done in 2003, chest x-rays of 1100 power plant workers were examined and analyzed. Over 130 of the images showed “abnormalities” indicative of the early stages of asbestos disease.
Asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) were commonly used in almost every industry before the early 1980s. These were found in any location where heat, flame, electricity and corrosive chemicals were a hazard. As they aged however, these materials began to deteriorate and crumble. In this state, it is considered friable. Fibers could be inhaled and ingested by employees. They would also become lodged in hair and clothing and carried into the home, subjecting family members to secondary exposure.
Mesothelioma is a difficult disease to diagnose. The early symptoms are similar to those of many other respiratory diseases. By the time more specific symptoms begin to show up, the cancer is usually in an advanced stage; most patients diagnosed at this point can expect a mesothelioma prognosis of about six to twenty-four months.
Those who were employed at Craig and any family members should advise their family physicians regarding any asbestos exposure they may have suffered. New methods now available allow pathologists to detect the markers of mesothelioma disease in earlier stages when the disease is highly treatable, so it is important to be checked early and often.
Through the 1970s, it was extremely common for plants, mills, and factories to be built with the naturally occurring, fibrous mineral known as asbestos because it provided high resistance to heat and electricity. It is ironic that protecting lives was typically one of the driving justifications for utilizing asbestos in companies for the result was in fact to place workers in danger of serious illness or death due to inhalation of or other contact with asbestos. The reason large numbers of workers have become ill from illnesses including asbestosis and cancer of the lungs is that when humans inhale or ingest asbestos fibers, the mineral remains in respiratory passages; once there, the sharp, microscopic spikes damage organs. The most serious of the asbestos-related diseases is mesothelioma, a type of cancer that affects the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the abdominal cavity; it is very difficult to treat, and patients seldom live more than two years after being diagnosed.
Because medical science has demonstrated the relationship between asbestos exposure and diseases such as lung cancer, today's laborers are protected by government regulations that control how asbestos is handled. Those who worked around asbestos-containing materials prior to the implementation of such laws, however, generally spent their shifts in locations where asbestos was prevalent, and they typically received little or no training about how to work safely with the substance. Family members were also subjected to asbestos exposure if workplaces failed to offer ways for employees to wash off asbestos fibers, because workers inadvertently transported asbestos to their homes in their clothes and hair.
Those who worked at this site at any time in their job history, as well as their partners and children, should learn more about these health conditions and tell their family doctors about their history of exposure to asbestos, because the signs of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses can be difficult to distinguish from those of other, less serious conditions.Sources
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.
"19 Plant Workers Sickened at Craig Power Plant." CBS4Denver.com. 19 April 2009. Channel 4 CBS Denver. 26 Apr 2009,
"Tri-State Overview." TriState.coop. 2009. TriState Generation and Transmission Association. 26 Apr 2009,