Tyrone Generating Station

The Tyrone Generating Station, operated by Kentucky Utilities, is located near Lawrenceburg and Versailles, Kentucky, and is run as a coal-fired power plant. It was launched in 1947, though construction began as early as 1940, making it one of Kentucky Utilities’ oldest power plants. The Tyrone Generating Station’s third unit has a 75-megawatt capacity and is the only one of three still operational as a coal-burning unit today. The first and second units were converted to oil burning stations in the 1970s. Though electrostatic precipitators have been installed to protect workers against air and water pollution, many power plant employees are at risk for asbestos exposure.

Research done by Abt Associates in 2010 indicates that 8 deaths at the Tyrone Generating Station, along with 6 hospital admissions, resulted from the plant’s fine particle pollution. In many power plants, especially older ones like Tyrone Generating Station, asbestos fibers contributed to unhealthy exposure to such carcinogens.

Asbestos is a mineral mined from natural deposits in the earth. It was used in machinery and protective clothing in many factories and power plants. Asbestos is inexpensive, easy to handle, and heat and fire resistant, making it a popular choice among manufacturers. It was often utilized in insulation and in boiler rooms as well.

When asbestos is in its natural state, it is non-toxic. However, once the material is disturbed, its tiny, almost invisible fibers can be released into the air. These fibers get caught in hair and on clothes and shoes of workers. The workers often unknowingly carry them home this way, exposing family members to the fibers as well. If these particles are inhaled or ingested, they can collect in the lining surrounding the lungs, heart, or stomach. This causes tissue scarring, which eventually leads to the development of malignant cells, resulting in a condition known as mesothelioma.

Though mesothelioma is considered rare, it is extremely deadly, a fact that is intensified by the lack of knowledge of the cancer. Mesothelioma symptoms include coughing, hacking, wheezing, heaviness of the chest, and shortness of breath. However, these symptoms are often latent for 20 to 50 years after victims first make contact with the carcinogen. By the time doctors diagnose mesothelioma, it is often too late for the victims because the cancer has spread, drastically reducing life expectancy.

Many who worked in power plants such as Tyrone Generating Station may have been exposed to asbestos and other carcinogenic pollutants without realizing it. Though regulations exist to minimize exposure to asbestos, many may still unknowingly be inhaling it or may have already been exposed to it at work sites.