Resources for Patients and their Families

Ocotillo Power Plant

The Ocotillo Power Plant is a gas-fired facility owned and operated by APS and located in the central Arizona community of Tempe. A total of four units (two steam turbines and two combustion units) have a total generation capacity of 340 megawatts. Additionally, the plant is home to the APS Solar Technology and Research (STAR) Center, which is currently engaged in investigations on how best to make efficient use of Arizona's abundant sunlight.


Any sort of power generation facility built prior to the 1980s has had large amounts of asbestos insulation at some point in its history. This is because asbestos offers excellent resistance to heat and flame as well as electrical current. To be sure, asbestos-containing materials have saved thousands of lives while preventing massive property loss over the past century. Those who contracted asbestos diseases as a result have nonetheless suffered disproportionately.

Asbestos illness was demonstrated to be a serious hazard for power plant employees in a 2003 study by Puerto Rican researchers. The team examined chest x-rays from 1100 such workers and discovered indications of asbestos disease in over 130 of the images.

Before the 1980s, generators, boilers and turbine combustion engines as well as thermal control devices were regularly insulated with asbestos. Before this, knowledge of the health hazards of asbestos were kept from the general public by the corporate conspiracy of silence that was exposed during litigation in 1977. The evidence that came to light proved that the entire asbestos products industry had in fact engaged in a massive cover-up that went back to the 1930s.

EPA and OSHA regulations now protect workers and govern the general handling of asbestos. However, mesothelioma disease symptoms take decades to manifest; by then, it is usually too late.

However, new diagnostic methods have recently been developed, allowing pathologists to detect the signs of asbestos disease at their earliest stages. Former power plant employees should discuss asbestos exposure with their primary care doctors and receive regular checkups whenever possible. Mesothelioma prognosis can be encouraging when the disease is in its early stages but invariably fatal in their latter ones.

In the first two-thirds of the 20th century, it was usual for plants, mills, and factories to use asbestos because it provided high resistance to heat and electricity. While asbestos' strength as an insulator certainly protected people from injury and even death, the unexpected results of its use were tragic, as numerous employees contracted serious illness and even died due to contact with asbestos. The reason is that particles of asbestos, if inhaled or ingested, embed themselves into respiratory passages, leading to debilitating health conditions including asbestosis and lung cancer. The most serious of the asbestos-caused disorders is mesothelioma, a form of cancer that involves the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the pleural cavity; it is a disease that usually kills within two years of diagnosis.

Because medical science has uncovered the relationship between inhaling asbestos and conditions like asbestosis, present-day laborers are protected by government regulations that control how asbestos is to be handled. Those who labored near job sites constructed with asbestos prior to the passage of such laws, on the other hand, commonly spent their work days in sites where asbestos microfibers were prevalent, and they as a rule received very little guidance about how to minimize risks when dealing with the mineral. Spouses were also exposed to asbestos when job sites didn't offer showers, as employees inadvertently transported asbestos home with them in their work garments.

Diseases such as mesothelioma frequently take many years to appear, and their symptoms can be difficult to distinguish from those of other conditions; therefore, those who worked at such facilities at any time in the past, as well as their family members, are encouraged to chat with their doctors about their history of asbestos exposure.



Bowker, Michael. Deadly Deception (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.

APS. “Ocotillo.”

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