The Gannon Power Plant was a coal-fired facility located near Tampa Bay, Florida. By 1999, the plant was slated for conversion to natural gas for environmental reasons. The last coal-fired units were shut down in 2004 and the new gas-fired units came online in 2005 and 2006. Today, these cleaner-burning units have a total capacity of 1.8 gigawatts. It has since been renamed the H. L. Culbreath Bayside Power Station. Two additional gas-fired units are scheduled to come online by the end of 2009.
Gannon Station was one of several Florida power plants listed as sites where employees have been exposed to asbestos.
Before 1980, virtually all industrial buildings and factories were constructed with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) because of its ability to block the transfer of heat and electricity as well as corrosive chemicals. The main concern was property damage; health hazards of asbestos were first suspected around 1900 and had been confirmed by the late 1930s, but 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. 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 as well.
Asbestos diseases such as mesothelioma often do not show symptoms until decades after asbestos exposure first occurs,. Anyone who worked at Gannon 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.
In the first two-thirds of the 20th century, it was commonplace for many industrial facilities to be built with the naturally occurring, fibrous mineral known as asbestos because of its resistance to heat, flame and electrical current. It is ironic that saving lives was generally one of the driving reasons behind using asbestos in places for the outcome was in fact to place laborers at risk of serious illness or death due to contact with asbestos. The reason large numbers of people have died from health conditions including asbestosis and cancer of the lungs is that when humans inhale asbestos fibers, the mineral infiltrates respiratory passages; once there, the tiny, jagged bits of asbestos damage organs. Also, job-related contact with asbestos can lead to the extremely hard to treat form of cancer known as mesothelioma disease, which affects the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the pleural cavity (pleural mesothelioma) or the abdominal cavity (peritoneal mesothelioma).
Those who work with asbestos in present times are generally safe from contact due to the many laws regulating its utilization, presence at job sites and disposal. Even up to the last part of the 20th century, though, laborers commonly were expected to toil in spaces in which air filled with asbestos particles was not filtered; in most cases, safety procedures were unknown. Furthermore, if employers failed to offer facilities to wash off asbestos fibers, workers inadvertently transported asbestos home with them in their clothes and hair, thereby exposing family members to this dangerous substance.
As conditions such as lung cancer and mesothelioma often do not develop until a very long time after a person first is exposed to asbestos, those who had jobs at contaminated plants, as well as those who lived with them, should discuss their history of asbestos exposure with their doctors as mesothelioma prognosis can be positive if caught early.Sources
Bowker, Michael. Deadly Deception (New York: Touchstone, 2003)
Business Wire. "Tampa Electric Completes Construction of 320 Megawatts of Environmentally Friendly Generating Capacity." Red Orbit, 9 April 2007.
TECO Energy Corporate Website. “H.L. Culbreath Bayside Power Station.”