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Utility Workers at Higher Risk of Developing Mesothelioma from Asbestos

Source: About Mesothelioma

Power plants generate high temperatures in the production of electricity so asbestos was widely used as a heat-resistant insulation material throughout many plants for decades. Workers at power plants and electricity distribution facilities are among the occupations at increased risk of exposure to asbestos and development of asbestos-related disease. Asbestos-related diseases include asbestosis, a chronic scarring of the lung, lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung or abdomen.

A 2010 study by scientists in Germany published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology seeks to identify which specific occupations at utility plants are at highest risk of asbestos-related diseases. From 2002 through 2006, the researchers surveyed more than 8600 former or active employees at both traditional coal-burning power plants and nuclear power plants in Germany.

Among the various occupations at power plants, the researchers said workers involved in power generation such as plant operators, employees who worked around turbines and metal workers had high cumulative exposures to asbestos over long periods of time. Based on the assumption that longer exposure to asbestos creates higher risk of respiratory disease, the researchers identified metal workers at high risk of developing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Without proper breathing protection, workers may inhale microscopic asbestos fibers that lodge in their lungs and build up over time. While asbestos is banned in Germany and no longer commonly used in the United States, utility workers exposed to asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s may just now be showing symptoms of asbestos-related disease. Mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that strikes the lining of the lung or abdominal cavity, typically takes 20 to 40 years to appear.

In the United States today, most workplace exposure to asbestos occurs during the repair, renovation, removal or maintenance of asbestos-containing materials installed decades ago.

Make sure you contact a professional asbestos abatement contractor such as EnviroVantage for your next asbestos removal project, or any project that could potentially disturb any asbestos containing materials.