As early as the 1980s, asbestos was still being used in power plants. At the time, the material was commonly found in block insulation, flooring, ceiling tiles, adhesives, and gaskets. Whenever a power plant worker needed to saw or sand one of these pipes or gaskets, they inadvertently released asbestos particles into the air where anyone who happened to walk by the area could inhale or ingest them. This exposure was dangerous, though few knew it at the time. We now know that asbestos exposure can lead mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer in power plant workers.
Power Plant Workers & Mesothelioma, Asbestosis, and Lung Cancer
In the mid-70s the correlation between inhaling asbestos dust and developing mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer really came to the fore. It was clear that industrial workers such as power plant workers had been put at risk. Even though asbestos has been largely banished from power plants, no one is sure just how much damage the asbestos did. The diseases connected to the fibers have a long latency period, with symptoms taking anywhere from 20 to 50 years to appear. Many feel that power plant workers will be diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses for at least another 20 years.
Another issue that makes it hard to estimate the impact asbestos had on the power plant industry is that the actual power plant workers aren’t the only ones who can develop asbestos illnesses. Many carried bits of asbestos home on their clothing and hair. It’s highly likely that anyone living with these power plant workers at the time will also become sick.
Individuals who worked in power plants prior to 1980 or with older equipment should inform their doctors that they may have been exposed to asbestos. Their health should be monitored for symptoms of mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
Mesothelioma has the distinction of being the most common asbestos-related illness. It most commonly develops in the lining of the lung, though it has also been found in both the heart and stomach lining. The only known cause is asbestos exposure. Although the prognosis following a mesothelioma diagnosis is grim, doctors have gotten better at using chemo, radiation, and surgery to halt its progression, drastically extending the life expectancy of the power plant worker.
Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is generally connected to smoking, but studies indicated that if a power plant worker smokes and was exposed to asbestos, the odds of developing lung cancer increases. This link prompted doctors to include the word asbestos in the paperwork, which enables the impacted power plant worker to seek an asbestos legal settlement.
The only way a power plant worker can develop asbestosis is from inhaling asbestos particles. It’s commonly caused by the spiral-shaped particles which scrape the lungs, causing scar tissue to develop. As time passes, the scar tissue continues to grow until the power plant worker has a hard time drawing enough breath. Blood flow is also restricted. A hacking, dry cough, difficulty breathing, and chest pain can indicate asbestosis.
Power plant workers need to pay attention to the age of the equipment, particularly the pipes, they’re working with. If the pipes date back to the early 1980s, there’s a good chance they contain asbestos and the power plant employee will need to be fully decked out in protective wear so they don’t inhale any of the dangerous fibers.