Resources for Patients and their Families

Saguaro Power Plant

Saguaro is a gas-fired power plant located north of Tucson, Arizona outside the community of Red Rock. The facility has a total of five units, two of which are steam and three that operated on combustion turbines. With a total generation capacity of 395 megawatts, the five units are owned by Arizona Public Service (APS).

In addition to the five conventionally-fired units, APS has also constructed a solar power station on the premises, consisting of a 1 megawatt solar trough.

The Saguaro Power Plant has been identified as a moderate source of environmental pollutants, primarily nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide and ammonia.

Asbestos has also been identified as a job-related safety issue in virtually all power generation facilities constructed prior to the early 1980s. Asbestos offers excellent resistance to both heat and electrical current. Asbestos insulation was used in fire doors, around conduits and inside the machinery itself. While the asbestos-containing materials used in the construction and machinery of power plants were unlikely to pose a major health hazard to the general public, they have been proven to be a serious health risk to power plant maintenance workers and engineers.

A Puerto Rican study published in 2007 signs of asbestos disease in over 130 out of 1100 chest x-rays that had been taken of power plant workers in that country. The findings were further validated by the removal of factors such as tobacco from the data.

Although harmless in its solid state, asbestos materials become brittle with age and begin to crumble into dust. In this condition, it is called friable; asbestos dust is released into the environment. It can be inhaled by workers and often settles in the hair and on the clothing. Family members then receive secondary exposure when such asbestos materials are carried into the home.

Because of its resistance to heat, flame and electrical current, the naturally occurring fibrous mineral known as asbestos was often utilized within almost all factories, mills, power plants and worksites around the country. While the use of asbestos was intended to protect human life, it unfortunately often had the opposite effect: exposure to asbestos associated with work has resulted in serious illness for far too many people. The illnesses caused by asbestos exposure include "miner's lung" and cancer; the largest risk of developing these conditions happens when asbestos-containing products become fragile, releasing particles into the environment where they are available to inhale. The most serious of the asbestos-related illnesses is mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the abdominal, pleural or pericarial cavity. Mesothelioma prognosis can be encouraging when the disease is in its early stages but invariably fatal in their latter ones.

People whose job sites contain asbestos now are generally protected from exposure because of the many guidelines controlling its use, presence at job sites and scrapping. Those who labored near job sites constructed with asbestos before such laws were passed, on the other hand, usually spent their days in sites where asbestos was prevalent, and they typically received little or no training regarding how to work safely with the substance. In addition, employees brought asbestos particles home in their clothes and hair when change rooms were not offered at the job site; as a result, this potentially deadly mineral also endangered families of those who worked with asbestos.

Mesothelioma disease and other asbestos-related illnesses frequently take many years to manifest, and the signs of these illnesses can be mistaken for those of other conditions, so those who worked at such plants in the past, as well as their spouses and children, should talk with their doctors about their history of contact with asbestos.



APS Website.

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.

PlanetHazard. “APS Saguaro Power Plant.”

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