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John L. McClellan Generating Station

Owned by the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, the John L. McClellan Generating Station is located in Camden, Arkansas. Its single unit came online in 1971 and has a generating capacity of 134 megawatts. This primarily gas-fired plant can also use #6 fuel oil when necessary.

The primary pollutant emitted at this location is sulfuric acid, which according to a recent report in USA Today, affects several elementary and high schools in the area.

For employees, another danger is asbestos.

As was the case for virtually every industrial operation prior to 1980, the use of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) was common throughout the construction of power generation facilities, including the buildings themselves and the machinery. Asbestos is resistant not only to heat and flame, but caustic chemicals and electrical current as well. Over the years, the use of ACMs have saved lives and prevented billions of dollars in property loss.

Asbestos disease is relatively rare, but also painful and invariably fatal. The industrial health hazards were well known to ACM manufacturers by the 1930s, but the knowledge was kept a secret for over forty years before a court case in 1977 forced the issue out into the open.

Today, there are strong regulations that have been issued by the EPA and OSH, requiring companies such as AECC to provide a safe work environment. Violations can result in large monetary fines and other penalties; individuals responsible may also face prison time.

Asbestos diseases typically have very long latency periods. Symptoms may not appear for as much as sixty years after a person is first exposed to asbestos. Former employees of the McClellan facility as well as their families should discuss the possibility of asbestos exposure with their primary care providers; early diagnosis is the key to a good mesothelioma prognosis and long-term survival.

Through the 1970s, it was normal for many industrial facilities to be built with asbestos because it excelled at blocking fire. Although asbestos' abilities as an insulator certainly protected people and property in the short term, the eventual consequences of its use were tragic: far too many people developed serious illness due to asbestos exposure. The reason large numbers of workers have fallen ill from illnesses such as pleural plaques and cancer of the lungs is that when humans inhale particles of asbestos, the mineral remains in internal organs; once there, the sharp, microscopic spikes damage tissues. Also, mesothelioma, a fast-growing and mostly untreatable cancer affecting the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the pleural cavity, is linked with mild to moderate exposure to asbestos.

Because numerous studies have shown the relationship between inhaling asbestos and illnesses like asbestosis, today's employees are protected by laws that control how asbestos is used. Those who labored around asbestos before such laws were passed, on the other hand, commonly spent their work days in spaces where asbestos microfibers were prevalent, and they typically were provided with very little training concerning safe ways to handle the substance. And if the employer didn't offer showers and decontamination methods, employees took asbestos fibers to their homes in their work garments, which exposed others in their household to this deadly toxin.

Those who were employed at this site in the past, as well as their partners and children, are encouraged to learn more about these health conditions and tell their healthcare professionals about their history of exposure to asbestos, because the symptoms of asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma disease can be difficult to distinguish from those of other, less serious conditions.

Sources

Sources

AECC. “John L. McClellan Generating Station: Facility Details.”
http://www.aecc.com/memanage/include/generation_facilities_john_l_mcclellan.html

Bowker, Michael. Deadly Deception (New York: Touchstone, 2003) N/A. “Special Report: The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America's Schools.” USA Today.
http://content.usatoday.com/news/nation/environment/smokestack/polluter/38991

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