The Muskingum River Power Plant is a coal-fired facility near Beverly, Ohio. It is currently the worst power generating facility in the nation in terms of toxic emissions, discharging nearly thirty-three pounds of sulfur dioxide for every megawatt of electrical energy produced. Heat pollution is also an issue; four of the five units discharge twice as much waste heat into the nearby river as their output of electricity.
Power generation facilities constructed before the early 1980s were likely to have incorporated massive amounts of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) throughout the building and machinery. Asbestos was used primarily because of their resistance to fire and heat; however, crocidolite asbestos (also known as “blue” asbestos) is also effective as a form of electrical insulation. This type of asbestos is one of the most toxic varieties known; although all types of asbestos are known to play a part in the development of lung cancer, crocidolite and amosite (“brown” asbestos) work much faster in causing the cellular mutations that result in cancers such as mesothelioma.
ACMs were common building materials in any event, but in power plants, they were found any or all of the following locations:
- electrical cloth
- fire doors
- pipe and conduit lagging
- work surfaces
In moving machinery such as turbines, ACMs created a particular hazard by ejecting millions of asbestos fibers into the air, where they were not only inhaled and ingested, but settled in worker's hair and on their clothing as well. Tragically, they unknowingly brought these fibers into their homes, where secondary exposure to family members resulted. There are several documented cases in which wives and children developed pleural mesothelioma as a result of such exposure.
In 2003, medical researchers in Puerto Rico examined chest x-rays from 1100 power plant workers. The results of the study, published in 2007, showed that there were indications of asbestos disease in 13% of the subjects. Power plants such as Bailey are regarded by industrial health experts as the most hazardous of industrial jobsites when it comes to asbestos.
If you or a family member have ever been employed at Bartow, it is important to discuss this with your primary care doctor and get regular health screenings as well. Recent advances in biotechnology have enabled pathologists to detect protein “markers” in the blood that indicate the early stages of mesothelioma. When detected in its early stages, mesothelioma is highly treatable, although the disease can recur later and lifelong health monitoring is usually necessary.
With its resistance to heat, flame and electrical current, the mineral asbestos was often used throughout numerous factories, mills, power plants and worksites in every state of the US. Although using asbestos was intended in many cases to protect human life, it sadly often had the opposite effect. Exposure to asbestos at jobsites has resulted in illness and death for thousands of people. The health conditions associated with asbestos include "miner's lung" and cancer of the lungs; the greatest risk of developing these conditions occurs when products containing asbestos become friable, releasing strands into the environment where they are easy to inhale or ingest. The most deadly of the asbestos-linked diseases is mesothelioma, which is a type of cancer that involves the cells lining the abdominal cavity; it is almost always a death sentence for those who contract it.
Because science has shown the relationship between inhaling asbestos and illnesses such as mesothelioma, 21st-century laborers are protected by government regulations that control how asbestos is handled. However, in the past, laborers unprotected by masks or other safety equipment frequently toiled in places where asbestos dust filled the air. Spouses and children were also exposed to asbestos if employers failed to offer ways for employees to wash off asbestos fibers, as workers inadvertently transported asbestos particles home on their clothes or in their hair.
Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses can take many years to manifest, and the symptoms of these disorders can be difficult to distinguish from those of less serious conditions, so people who worked at these installations during their careers, as well as those who lived with them, are encouraged to speak with their physicians about their history of asbestos contact. Those who may have been negligently exposed to asbestos should seek legal consultation with a mesothelioma attorney.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.
Ohio EPA. “American Electric Power, Muskingum River Plant.” (February 2000).