The four combustion units at the Yucca Power Plant in southwestern Arizona have a total generation capacity of 150 megawatts. A second solar power plant at the Somerton facility puts out an additional 100 kilowatts, sufficient to meet the needs of approximately thirty average-sized homes. These are owned and operated by Arizona Public Service; in addition, there is a steam turbine unit as well as a combustion turbine owned by the Imperial Irrigation District.
Flame, excessive heat and electricity are all hazards at power generation plants. Because of this, power generation facilities made extensive use of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in their construction; such materials could also be used in the turbine machinery itself. Other asbestos hazards include:
- electrical cloth
- fire doors
- pipe and conduit lagging
- work surfaces
When these materials became friable (a crumbling state in which fibers are released into the environment), the resulting asbestos dust was not only inhaled, but could become lodged in workers' hair and clothing, subjecting unsuspecting family members to the hazards of secondary exposure.
In 2003, medical researchers in Puerto Rico examined chest x-rays from 1100 power plant workers. Signs of asbestos disease were seen in 13% of the subjects. Power plants are considered to be among the most hazardous industrial jobsites when it comes to asbestos by industrial safety experts. Those who were employed at such facilities prior to the early 1980s should discuss this with a medical professional if possible and receive frequent check-ups. Asbestos diseases such as mesothelioma have long latency periods; symptoms may not be apparent until several decades after such exposure.
The good news is that recent advances in medical technology have enabled pathologists to detect the “markers” of asbestos cancer in its earliest stages, making mesothelioma prognosis better for patients.
During much of the last century, it was normal for industrial sites of all types to be constructed with the mineral asbestos because of its resistance to heat, flame and electrical current. While using asbestos was intended in many cases to protect human life, it sadly all too often had the opposite effect: asbestos exposure at jobsites has resulted in serious illness for thousands of people. The health conditions associated with asbestos exposure include asbestosis and cancer; the largest chance of contracting these conditions occurs when materials containing asbestos become fragile, releasing strands into the air where they are available to inhale or ingest. Also, mesothelioma disease, a nearly always fatal cancer affecting the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the pleural cavity, is associated with mild to moderate exposure to asbestos.
Those who work with asbestos now are usually safe from exposure due to the numerous guidelines regulating its use, presence at job sites and scrapping. People who worked around asbestos-containing materials before such laws were passed, on the other hand, often spent their work days in sites where asbestos fibers were prevalent, and they typically received very little information regarding how to work safely with the mineral. If companies failed to offer showers, employees inadvertently transported asbestos home with them in their clothes and hair, thereby exposing family members to this deadly toxin.
Those who worked here during their career, as well as their spouses 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 symptoms of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses are often difficult to distinguish from those of other, less serious conditions.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.
N/A. “APS Solar Power Plants.”