A new German study has confirmed what thousands of power plant workers already know: their exposure to asbestos at work puts them at high risk for malignant mesothelioma.
Due to its heat resistant properties, asbestos was used for many years as an insulator around hot turbine power, cables and other sensitive equipment. Thousands of power plant workers have been in contact with the material on a daily basis, in some cases for decades.
In the latest study on the risk of mesothelioma among workers in the power plant, German researchers monitored 8,632 current or former employees of power plants between 2002 and 2006, he worked with large turbines. The researchers took the dust fibers around the plants and found that 96 percent of the samples contained high levels of chrysotile asbestos, a known risk factor for asbestosis, mesothelioma and other cancers of the lung.
The test results showed that up to 94 percent of study subjects had been exposed to asbestos at work, some up to 20 years, and were at high risk for mesothelioma. The research team analyzed the workers involved in different jobs within the power plant and found that more intense exposure to asbestos occurred during repair or servicing of the turbines. While all workers in the power plant were heavily exposed to asbestos, metalworkers and electricians power plants, those most directly involved with the repair of the turbine, tended to have greater exposure and increased risk for diseases such as mesothelioma.
Most surprising, the study found that while the air inside was clearly toxic plants, 82 percent of German workers had no safety measures in their workplace to protect against mesothelioma. The authors suggest that because of the findings, metalworkers and electricians in the power generation industry should be closely monitored for signs of mesothelioma. Although mesothelioma is fast growing and resistant to traditional therapies, early detection greatly improves the chances of patient survival.
Felten, Michael et al, “Retrospective exposure assessment to airborne asbestos among power industry workers”, June 25, 2010. Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology.
“Mesothelioma Risk for Power Plant Workers Exposed to Asbestos”, Cancer in the News website, February 10, 2011.