Power Plant Workers

America’s power plant workers were exposed to asbestos for the past century, as asbestos was used to fireproof and insulate electrical plants. Unfortunately, many power plant workers are only seeing the health consequences of their asbestos exposure decades later, and some have developed an aggressive type of cancer called mesothelioma.

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Power Plant Workers and Asbestos Exposure

There are hundreds of power plants in America. Asbestos was widely installed in every part of power plant operation from the 1930s until the early 1980s. Practically every worker employed in power plants during those years experienced asbestos exposure.

All power plants use a combination of three steps to produce electricity:

  1. A fuel source is consumed and turned into energy.
  2. The energy propels turbines.
  3. These turbines energize electrical generators.

These systems all involve high temperatures that create a fire risk. Over many decades, asbestos was commonly used to insulate and fireproof America’s generation stations, putting power plant workers at high risk for asbestos exposure.

How Power Plant Workers Were Exposed to Asbestos

All standard power generation stations produce an extensive amount of heat and need insulation. Unfortunately, asbestos used to be considered the perfect insulator.

Did You Know?

Power Plants and Asbestos Dangers

Asbestos is most dangerous when workers are handling and forming it from raw states to finished products. Once asbestos products are installed, sealed, and left inert, they are relatively safe.

It’s when asbestos materials are disturbed that microscopic fibers are released into the air and form deadly dust clouds. Power plants often became filled with this asbestos dust during maintenance periods as well as initial installation.

It wasn’t only workers directly cutting, shaping, and fitting asbestos who were at exposure risk. Everyone in the power plant facility inhaled airborne asbestos. That included secondhand exposure to office and administration personnel.

Asbestos Products Used in Power Plants

Because power plants produce massive amounts of heat during electrical generation, cooling, and fire protection was a continuous challenge.

Power plants required materials that were excellent insulators for both thermal transfer and electric conductivity. They also needed fireproof products that were strong, non-corrosive and lightweight.

Power plants used vast quantities of these all-purpose materials, so they needed a low cost and readily available substance. Asbestos met every requirement except for worker health and safety.

Common asbestos components used in power plants include:

  • Coatings for electric wires and cables
  • Filler in cement powder
  • Firebricks and sponge blocks
  • Fireproofing on floors, walls, and ceilings
  • Gaskets and sealants for pipe joints
  • General insulation around boilers and steam rooms
  • Paints, glues, and mastic adhesives
  • Protection for electric panels and breakers
  • Spray-on pulp insulation

Any of these products could have exposed power plant workers to stray asbestos fibers, putting their lives at risk later on.

Power Plant Worker Careers

Electrical power plants are essential to American society. Almost every part of civilization relies on electrical power in some way.

There are three main fuel sources for electrical power plants:

  1. Energy from is fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas
  2. Hydro or water propulsion
  3. Thermonuclear power

Alternate fuel sources like wind, tides, and solar are all making advancements, but they still can’t match the efficiency and economics that the main fuel sources offer.

Electrical generation plants are huge facilities that produce hundreds or thousands of megawatts and require a staff of skilled professionals. Power plants have three specific divisions where skilled workers are employed.

Common power plant workers roles include:

  • Dispatchers analyze the required power demand. They are responsible for making sure peak demand times are anticipated and allowed for in overall power supplies.
  • Distributors who manage transformers, power converters, and circuit breakers. They ensure power loads are distributed at the proper rate so that electrical flow is never interrupted.
  • Machine operators who monitor and control electrical production equipment. This can be boilers, turbines, or support mechanisms. Operators ensure all components are serviceable at all times.

These three areas have distinct roles for experts who support the entire power production process. Machine operators have the most general purpose, while distributors and dispatchers have more specialized responsibilities.

Some of the skilled workers found in power plants are:

  • Clerical support workers who perform administration work.
  • Electricians and power linemen who support internal and external lines.
  • Engineers specializing in electrical, mechanical, and civil infrastructure.
  • General tradespeople who construct and renovate structures.
  • Machinists and millwrights who make and maintain mechanical components.
  • Maintenance personnel that keep facilities clean and orderly.
  • Plumbers, steamfitters, and boilermakers who control high-pressure systems.

All power plant workers help the United States’ safety, security, and economy by supplying electricity into the nation’s power grid.

Unfortunately, any power plant worker who worked with asbestos decades ago could now be in grave danger.

Power Plant Worker Health Risks

Mesothelioma is a severe form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Power plant workers who inhaled asbestos fibers in their workplace absorbed tiny particles into their lung lining.

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Mesothelioma Development Time

Heavy asbestos exposure over long periods presented an extreme risk for workers developing mesothelioma, which can take 20-50 years after exposure for symptoms to develop.

While long and heavy asbestos exposure increases the likelihood that a power plant employee will develop mesothelioma, everyone who inhaled asbestos particles is at risk.

Help for Mesothelioma Victims

Power plant workers who developed mesothelioma may be able to access compensation for medical expenses and lost income. The process can include seeking punitive damages against negligent asbestos product manufacturers.

Families can also file wrongful death lawsuits if their loved one died of mesothelioma.

If you are a former power plant worker with mesothelioma, our Justice Support Team may be able to help you. Get a free case review today.

Mesothelioma Support Team
Stephanie KiddWritten by:


Stephanie Kidd grew up in a family of civil servants, blue-collar workers, and medical caregivers. Upon graduating Summa Cum Laude from Stetson University, she began her career specializing in worker safety regulations and communications. Now, a proud member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Cancer Network, Stephanie serves as a voice for mesothelioma victims and their families.

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