Power Plant Worker Mesothelioma Exposure
We’re dependent on electricity to live a modern life. That comes at a high cost, especially for those who worked in power plants when using asbestos-containing products was common. This cancer-causing mineral fiber is heat and fire-resistant, and it doesn’t conduct electricity. Its use was common until the late 1970s, when it became heavily regulated. It may still be present in some power plants.
What Do Power Plant Workers Do?
Unless the power plant uses nuclear energy, a power plant probably burns coal, natural gas, or oil to generate heat, turning water into steam. That high-pressure steam turns turbines which generate electricity.
A power plant operator is a highly trained technical professional managing the operation of various equipment at a power plant facility. They control systems keeping a plant safe and operational. Several workers will be on the same shift handling specific tasks.
How Are Power Plant Workers Exposed to Asbestos?
For decades asbestos surrounded those working in power plants.
Much of a power plant can contain machinery, equipment, boilers, turbines, and pipes that are extremely hot. At its peak use, asbestos fibers were cheap and plentiful. It was liberally used in different products and forms to control heat and as a fire retardant. That protected the equipment and employees from the high temperatures that could develop.
Some of the asbestos products used include:
- Joint compound
- Pipe cement
- Insulation for electrical equipment
Depending on their duties, power plant workers may use clothing and safety gear containing asbestos. Power plant workers may be called upon to use some of these products.
Otherwise, they would work when others installed, maintained, and removed these products. This could fill the work environment with fibers too small to see. Over time these products would deteriorate, fibers would work loose, and float through the air until they piled up on equipment and floors.
What are the Dangers of Asbestos to Power Plant Workers?
Asbestos fibers in the air can be inhaled and swallowed by power plant employees. Fibers lodging in the lungs can, years or decades later, cause lung cancer, asbestosis, and pleural mesothelioma (a fatal cancer of the membranes lining the chest cavity and lungs), according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.
The immune system recognizes these fibers as foreign. White cells attack but fail to destroy them. The asbestos is unaffected, and the immune cells die. They spill out enzymes, injuring nearby cells, and causing inflammation. This can cause severe breathing problems (asbestosis). Eventually, genetic changes and cellular mutations can cause lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma.
Asbestos fibers also cause peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma. These types of cancer are less common than pleural mesothelioma. Pericardial mesothelioma involves the heart’s lining. Swallowed fibers can go through the digestive tract and end up in the peritoneum (a membrane lining the abdominal cavity and organs). After decades of cellular mutations, they, too can result in peritoneal mesothelioma.
How Harmful is Mesothelioma to Power Plant Workers?
Cancer survival statistics are estimates based on studies of those diagnosed, treated for, surviving, and dying of different malignancies. Generally, these statistics are the percentage of those with specific characteristics (such as age or cancer type) surviving five years after diagnosis. Overall, this five-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma patients is 10%, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
French research involving their cancer registries estimates that, on average, those diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma lived about a year afterward. One study of pericardial mesothelioma estimates the average survival was only two months after diagnosis.
These are very low numbers compared to people with cancer generally. For example, the American Cancer Society estimates that the five-year survival rate for all stages of colon cancer is 64%.
The length of time you will survive with mesothelioma depends on many issues, including your age, overall health, type of mesothelioma, and the effectiveness of your treatment.
Call Us Today For A Free Consultation
If you or a loved one worked at a power plant and has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, Satterley & Kelley lawyers can answer your questions, discuss your rights to compensation, and talk about what you must do to protect those rights. You can call our Louisville office at 502-589-5600 or toll-free at 855-385-9532. You can also schedule a free initial consultation after filling out our contact form.