The Tanner's Creek Generating Station is one of two coal-fired power stations located near Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Currently owned and operated Indiana Michigan Power, a subsidiary of American Power, Inc.
The facility first came online in 1951. Today, Tanner Creek’s four units have a total generative capacity of over 1 gigawatt. With three of these aging units now approaching their seventh decade of operation, it is not surprising that the facility is ranked among the 100 dirtiest power plants in the U.S. in terms of sulfur dioxide emissions. Older power plants such as Tanner Creek are also known for being asbestos worksites.
Any type of power generation facility built prior to the 1980s has contained large amounts of asbestos insulation at some point. Asbestos offers excellent resistance to heat and flame as well as electrical current; generators, boilers and turbine combustion engines as well as thermal control devices were regularly insulated with asbestos. Industrial use of asbestos has saved thousands of lives while preventing massive property loss over the past century.
Before the 1980s, 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.
Industrial health and safety experts have long been concerned about the effects of asbestos in the workplace. 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.
The asbestos hazard was extended to family members as well. Loose asbestos fibers became lodged in workers' hair and clothing, and was unknowingly brought into the home, exposing spouses and offspring who later developed asbestos cancer as a result.
Today, EPA and OSHA regulations protect workers and govern the general handling of asbestos. However, asbestos disease symptoms take decades to manifest; most of those who are diagnosed today suffered asbestos exposure long before such hazards were generally known.
New diagnostic methods have recently been developed and approved by the FDA. These tools now enable 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.
This location was one of a multitude of factories, mills, power plants and worksites that, in the first 70 years of the 1900s, used the mineral asbestos because of its ability to resist heat. Even though asbestos' abilities as an insulator certainly saved lives, the unexpected results of using it were horrible, and numerous employees contracted serious illness and even died because of exposure to asbestos. The reason is that strands of asbestos, if inhaled, damage respiratory passages, leading to debilitating diseases such as asbestosis and cancer of the lungs. Also, mesothelioma, the rare but deadly cancer affecting the lining surrounding the lungs, is associated with even low levels of inhalation of asbestos particles.
Now, regulators are aware of the dangers associated with asbestos exposure, and responsible employers ensure the well-being of employees whose jobs put them in contact with this material. People who worked around job sites containing asbestos prior to the implementation of such laws, on the other hand, usually spent their shifts in sites where asbestos fibers were prevalent, and they typically were provided with little or no information about how to work safely with the mineral. In addition, workers brought dust containing asbestos home with them in their work garments when showers were not provided at the workplace; as a result, the potentially deadly mineral also put at risk anyone living with those who worked with asbestos.
Men and women who were employed at this site in the past, as well as their partners and children, are advised to find out about these health conditions and inform their healthcare professionals about their history of exposure to asbestos, because the signs of asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma are often difficult to distinguish from those of less serious conditions. When detected early, the cancer can be treated with mesothelioma chemotherapy by doctors such as Dr. David Sugarbaker at Harvard University's Brigham and Women’s Hospital.Sources
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.
"Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2006" (Excel). Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy. 2006.