Big Bend Power Station
The Big Bend Power Station takes up almost 1,500 acres of land in the Tampa Bay, Florida, in Hillsborough County. The Big Bend Power Station was built in 1970 and its second unit became operational in 1973. In 1976, its third unit was added and in 1985 it added a fourth. All four units produce over 1,700 megawatts through the utilization of coal. In 2009, the Big Bend Power Station began using natural gas to for occasional additional power. Since 1984, the plant has also used “scrubbers” or flue gas desulfurization to reduce the amount of environmentally harmful emission released. The scrubber system eliminates up to 94 percent of dangerous emissions.
Though many power plants are progressing towards more environmentally friendly systems and strategies, many once used asbestos. This mineral is harmless when it is untouched and intact. It was used by the ancient Greeks as a sort of miracle product because it could withstand high temperatures and did not corrode as easily as other materials. As late as the 1970s, asbestos was widely used throughout the United States in insulation, dry wall, car parts, and heating appliances in homes and other buildings. Because they were poor conductors of electricity, asbestos materials were frequently utilized in power plants all over the United States, in boiler rooms and as protective clothing. Asbestos, however, was anything but safe.
Today, medical professionals understand the effects of exposure to asbestos more fully. Asbestos, when disturbed, gives off asbestos dust. In this dust are tiny fibers, undetectable without the right equipment. Many power plant employees unknowingly worked with asbestos, greatly increases their chances of cancer and other asbestos-related diseases like asbestosis.
When asbestos fibers were inhaled by employees, they settled in the lungs, the abdomen, and the heart. As the fine fibers collected in the linings of these organs, the tissue cells were scarred and became malignant. Malignant cells multiply more quickly than normal, healthy cells, sometimes resulting in cancer symptoms. However, mesothelioma symptoms often remain dormant for 20 to 50 years after victims were exposed to asbestos. After mesothelioma diagnosis, most power plant workers were given unfavorable prognoses. Mesothelioma, a surprisingly aggressive form of cancer, was often in its final stages by the time victims were accurately diagnosed, leaving little time for treatment to take its effect.