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Quad Cities

Located outside of Cordova, Illinois along the banks of the Mississippi River, Quad Cities Generating Station is a nuclear plant owned and operated by Exelon Corporation. Equipped with a pair of General Electric boiling water reactors, the facility has a total generative capacity of over 1.8 gigawatts.

The Quad Cities facility first came online at the end of 1972 and is licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for operation through 2024.

Amphibole asbestos is an excellent electrical insulator, and was used extensively throughout the construction of power generation facilities such as Nucla. ACMs could be found in electrical cloth, conduits and even the machinery itself, including turbines and generators. Asbestos inside machinery has especially hazardous, since it could eject millions of friable asbestos fibers into the immediate environment while in motion.

A Puerto Rican study published in 2007 examined the chest x-rays of over 1,100 workers; more than 130 of them showed signs of asbestos disease.

Diseases such as asbestos cancer (lung cancer and mesothelioma) and asbestosis are serious risks among power plant workers – and their families as well, since asbestos fibers were able to travel home in workers' hair and on their clothing. Several recent court cases have demonstrated the danger of such “secondary exposure.”

Mesothelioma has a latency period often measured in decades; early symptoms are similar to those of other respiratory disease (it can affect the abdominal cavity and heart as well), and may not appear until twenty to sixty years after the patient's first exposure to asbestos. It is therefore very to diagnose, and by the time such a diagnosis is confirmed, the disease is usually far advanced. Patients typically do not survive more than two years after such a diagnosis.

Fortunately, a new method recently approved for use in the U.S. by the FDA enables pathologists to detect the “markers” of mesothelioma in its earliest stages. Those who were employed at the Quad City facility prior to the 1980s as well as their family members should undergo screening and monitoring, since prognosis is much better when the disease is treated in its initial stages. Mesothelioma chemotherapy treatments are often available from doctors such as Dr. David Sugarbaker at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA.

Given its insulating properties, asbestos was often utilized in almost all job sites across the country. Even though asbestos' strength as an insulator certainly protected people from injury and even death, the long-term results of its use were devastating: far too many employees contracted serious illness due to contact with asbestos. The reason large numbers of employees have become ill from diseases including asbestosis and cancer of the lungs is that when humans inhale or ingest particles of asbestos, the mineral embeds itself into internal organs; once there, the sharp, microscopic spikes damage tissues. Furthermore, a history of exposure to asbestos is a known cause of the deadly cancer called mesothelioma, which develops as a tumor of the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the pleural cavity (pleural mesothelioma) or the abdominal cavity (peritoneal mesothelioma).

Those who work with asbestos now are usually safe from contact due to the numerous guidelines regulating its use, inclusion in products and scrapping. Even up to the last part of the 20th century, however, laborers all too often were told to operate in spaces in which air filled with asbestos particles was unfiltered; in many cases, the risks of asbestos exposure were unknown. And if job sites didn't offer showers, employees inadvertently transported asbestos home in their clothes and hair, which exposed spouses to the risk of asbestos-related diseases.

Since conditions such as mesothelioma may not appear until 20 years or more after asbestos exposure first occurs, people who had jobs at contaminated plants, as well as their family members, are advised to discuss their history of exposure to asbestos with their physicians regardless of how long ago they worked there.

Sources

Sources

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.

Exelon Corporation Quad Cities Plant Page
http://www.exeloncorp.com/ourcompanies/powergen/nuclear/quad_cities_generating_station.htm

Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog

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