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J.E. Corrette Steam Plant

The J.E. Corrette Steam Plant is located in Montana outside Billings.

Power generation plant workers are at high risk from asbestos exposure and are substantially more likely to contract disease such as mesothelioma. In 2003, Puerto Rican researchers analyzed the chest x-rays of 1,100 workers who had worked at least fifteen years in such a facility. 13% of the images showed signs of asbestos disease.

Asbestos is more than a flame retardant; the “blue” and “brown” varieties most likely to cause asbestos cancers such as mesothelioma are also excellent electrical insulators. Asbestos-containing materials were used extensively throughout the construction of power plants prior to 1980. Some of the areas in which asbestos-containing materials were found include:

  • fire doors
  • electrical cloth
  • pipe fittings and conduits
  • insulation
  • gasket materials
  • turbines and other machinery

This incidentally was not only a hazard to the worker, but to his family as well; asbestos fibers could be carried home in a worker's hair and clothing, subjecting family members to what is known as “secondary exposure.” There are several documented cases of a family member developing mesothelioma as the result of this type of exposure.

It was one such case in 1977 that brought to light a corporate conspiracy on the part of the asbestos industry to hide information regarding asbestos toxicity from the public. Corporations such as W.R. Grace, Johns-Manville and Raysbestos and colluded for over forty years to withhold medical evidence proving the carcinogenicity of the products from which these companies, their CEOs and their shareholders made extraordinary wealth.

Those who were employed at a power generation plant prior to 1980 should get regular checkups if possible and discuss the asbestos exposure with their primary care physician. When diagnosed and treated early, asbestos cancer patients can survive for many years. Mesothelioma chemotherapy treatments are available from doctors such as Dr. David Sugarbaker in Boston, MA. at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

This facility was one of countless factories, mills, power plants and worksites that, throughout most of the 20th century, used the mineral asbestos because of its ability to withstand flame. While using asbestos was generally considered a way to protect human life, it unfortunately ended up with the opposite effect: exposure to asbestos at jobsites has resulted in illness and death for far too many employees. The reason for this is that asbestos strands, if inhaled, embed themselves into respiratory passages, leading to life-threatening illnesses such as pleural plaques and cancer. The most deadly of the asbestos-related illnesses is mesothelioma, which is a form of cancer that involves the cells lining the chest cavity; it is very difficult to treat, and patients seldom live more than two years after being diagnosed.

Because research has uncovered the link between inhaling asbestos and conditions such as lung cancer, today's employees are protected by government regulations that prescribe how asbestos is used. People who labored near job sites constructed with asbestos prior to the passage of such laws, on the other hand, generally spent their work days in sites where asbestos was prevalent, and they as a rule received very little training concerning how to work safely with the substance. Spouses were also exposed to asbestos if companies didn't offer showers, because employees carried asbestos home on their skin or in their hair.

People who were employed at this site at any time in their job history, as well as those who lived with them, are encouraged to find out about these health conditions and inform their family doctors about their history of asbestos exposure, because the symptoms of asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma can be difficult to distinguish from those of less serious conditions.

Sources

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.

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