Sheldon Station is a coal-fired generating plant built on the site of an experimental nuclear facility near Hallam Nebraska that was built between 1958 and 1963. The nuclear plant operated for a mere 10 months before it was shut down and decommissioned.
Sheldon Station has two units with a total generative capacity of 225 megawatts. The facility services residents in Lincoln, Hastings, Beatrice, Grand Island and other southeast Nebraska communities.
Coal-fired power plants historically have a bad environmental record when it comes to emissions, although newer technologies such as scrubbers and baghouses are starting to mitigate this somewhat. Regardless of fuel however, virtually all power plants constructed prior to the 1980s contained large amounts of asbestos-containing materials, or ACMs.
A study from Puerto Rico first published in 2007 confirmed which industrial health and safety experts have been saying for many years; power plant workers run some of the highest risk of asbestos disease of any industry. In the study, chest x-rays of 1100 power plant workers were examined and analyzed. After tobacco use was taken into account, thirteen percent of the images showed signs of the early stages of asbestos disease.
ACMs were a common form of insulation that was used almost every industry before prior to the 1980s. These were used in any location where heat, flame, electricity and corrosive chemicals might pose an injury hazard. As these materials aged however, they began to deteriorate and crumble. Fibers were then inhaled and ingested by employees. In addition, asbestos fibers could become lodged in hair and clothing and carried into the home, where family members were subjected to secondary exposure.
It should be noted that prior to the late 1970s, health hazards of asbestos were not widely known outside of medical research and the corporate boardrooms of the corporations that manufactured and marketed asbestos-containing materials. These corporations kept a tight lid on such information for over four decades before a plaintiff's attorney discovered documentation in 1977 that exposed the forty-year conspiracy of silence.
Diagnosing mesothelioma is highly difficult. Early symptoms are common to many other respiratory diseases, and by the time more specific symptoms begin to appear, the cancer has reached Stage 3 or 4. Most patients diagnosed at this point have a dim prognosis, and usually die within two years. If diagnosed early, the disease can be treated with mesothelioma chemotherapy by doctors like Dr. David Sugarbaker at Harvard University's Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Those who were employed at Craig as well as partners and offspring should advise their family physicians about any asbestos exposure they may have suffered. New diagnostic methods allow pathologists to detect the markers of mesothelioma in early stages when the disease is highly treatable, so frequent monitoring is important.
Through the 1970s, it was typical for industrial sites of all types to be built with asbestos because it excelled at blocking fire. Although using asbestos was usually intended to reduce the risk of injury, it sadly all too often had the opposite effect. Exposure to asbestos at jobsites has resulted in serious illness for untold numbers laborers. The disorders associated with asbestos exposure include "miner's lung" and cancer; the greatest chance of developing these conditions happens when products containing asbestos become fragile, releasing particles into the environment where they are available to inhale or ingest. The most serious of the asbestos-linked illnesses is mesothelioma, which is a form of cancer that involves the cells lining the chest cavity; it is very difficult to treat, and patients seldom live more than two years after being diagnosed.
Those who work around asbestos now are generally protected from exposure due to the extensive body of laws controlling its utilization, presence at job sites and demolition. Those who labored near asbestos before such rules were implemented, on the other hand, often spent their shifts in locations where asbestos fibers were prevalent, and they typically were offered very little information concerning how to work safely with the mineral. Family members were also exposed to asbestos when workplaces did not offer showers, because employees inadvertently transported asbestos dust to their homes on their skin or in their hair.
Men and women who were employed here during their career, as well as family members of such workers, are encouraged to find out about these health conditions and inform their family doctors about their history of contact with asbestos, because the signs of diseases such as mesothelioma are often mistaken for those of less serious conditions.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.
Nebraska Public Power District. "Sheldon Station."