The Harry Allen Generating Station is located approximately 25 miles north of Las Vegas. Currently, the facility is owned by Nevada Energy (formerly the Nevada Power Company). Originally, the power plant was a substation that was only brought online during times of peak demand. It is however currently undergoing expansion with a second gas-fired facility and a 100-kilowatt solar system planned to become operational by 2012.
Harry Allen is a fairly new facility, so it is not known if asbestos exposure has been a major issue for employees working at the plant. Use of asbestos-containing materials were gradually phased out starting in 1980, largely due to the revelation in a court case three years earlier that demonstrated a corporate conspiracy among Raysbestos, W.R. Grace and Johns-Manville – all major manufacturers of asbestos products – to hide information about the health effects of their products from the general public.
Prior to that time however, power generation facilities normally contained large amounts of asbestos insulation. Asbestos is resistant not only to heat and flame, but electrical current as well. Generators, boilers and turbine combustion engines and thermal control devices were all insulated with asbestos-containing materials as well as pipe and conduit lagging, electrical cloth and junction boxes.
Asbestos illness has been established as a work-related hazard for those employed at power generation facilities. In a Puerto Rican study published in 2007, over 130 out of 1100 chest x-rays from such workers showed signs of asbestos disease.
Today, both the EPA and OSHA have issued strict regulations that govern worker safety as well as asbestos issues in general. However, an asbestos disease usually has a very long latency period; symptoms usually take decades to develop, and by the time they are diagnosed, it is usually too late.
The good news is that recent tools have been developed that allow pathologists to detect early signs of asbestos disease; it is therefore important to receive regular checkups if possible if you believe you were exposed to asbestos at a power plant.
During much of the last century, it was usual for plants, mills, and factories to be constructed with the mineral asbestos because it offered high resistance to transferring heat and electricity. Although using asbestos was generally considered a way to save lives, it sadly often had the opposite effect: asbestos exposure associated with work has resulted in illness and death for far too many employees. The reason for this is that asbestos fibers, if inhaled, can infiltrate the lungs and cause serious health conditions including "miner's lung" and cancer of the lungs. In addition, mesothelioma, a nearly always fatal cancer of the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the pleural cavity, is associated with mild to moderate inhalation of asbestos particles.
Because science has demonstrated the link between being exposed to asbestos and conditions such as mesothelioma, present-day employees are protected by laws that control how asbestos is used. People who labored around job sites containing asbestos before such laws were passed, however, generally spent their work days in locations where asbestos microfibers were prevalent, and they typically were provided with very little information concerning how to minimize risks when dealing with the substance. And if employers failed to provide showers, workers inadvertently transported strands of asbestos to their homes on their clothes or in their hair, thereby exposing spouses to this deadly toxin.
As conditions such as lung cancer and mesothelioma often do not appear until many years after asbestos exposure first occurs, those who had jobs at exposed sites, as well as family members of such workers, are advised to talk about their history of asbestos contact with their physicians no matter how far back they worked there. When caught early, the cancer can be treated with mesothelioma chemotherapy by doctors such as Dr. David Sugarbaker in Boston, MA. at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.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.
"Our History." nvenergy.com. 2009. NV Energy.
http://www.nvenergy.com/company/history.cfm Piñon Pine Power Project