Located near Shippingport, Pennsylvania, the Bruce Mansfield coal-fired power station, now owned by FirstEnergy, has long been not only an eyesore – marring the bucolic landscape of that area, but has also been the cause of a variety of health problems, the site of many accidents, and an overall concern to those who have worked there or lived near the plant.
The largest electric power plant in PA and one of the largest in the country, the Bruce Mansfield site was actually the first coal-powered plant in North America that was built with sulfur-dioxide scrubbers installed as original equipment. At this time, it is considered one of the “most environmentally-advanced” in Pennsylvania, but – conversely – there’s been a lot of evidence that this plant hasn’t been all that kind to the environment nor to the many employees that have worked there throughout its history.
The biggest area of concern for those in any way involved with this plant is the fine-particle pollution produced by this (and other) coal-fired plants. Experts note that the most dangerous of these particles are so small that they can easily “evade the lung’s natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease.
A study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions.
In 2010, the president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 272 at the plant asked the University of Pittsburgh to compile a list of diagnosed medical problems affecting members of the union. He had heard of many and wanted to confirm. Startlingly, nearly half of the members had been diagnosed with some sort of major health problem, ranging from hypertension and heart disease to serious respiratory problems and malignancies. 2 Lung ailments were of major concern.
Aside from fine-particle pollution concerns, Bruce Mansfield plant employees also once worked with asbestos products on a regular basis. The products were used in this and similar plants throughout the U.S., usually for insulation purposes. Asbestos has long been recognized as a miracle mineral when it comes to its insulating properties, so in a location where high-temperature machinery and equipment are commonplace – such as a power plant – asbestos-containing products were used in abundance.
As such, workers would often cut or saw through the material or handle damaged asbestos. In either instance, it is likely that they would inhale airborne asbestos fibers, which can become lodged in the lung area and eventually cause tumors to form. No doubt some Bruce Mansfield workers have already died of asbestos-caused mesothelioma and some are just being diagnosed, even though the use of the mineral ended around 1980.
That’s because mesothelioma has a long latency period and can take up to 50 years to appear. Diagnosis often comes as a surprise, but many workers knew they were destined to travel this difficult road. Exposed daily, they were rarely given any protection that would have prevented inhalation.
Power plant workers are at the top of the list of individuals at high risk for developing mesothelioma. If you’ve been sickened due to employment at Bruce Mansfield, it’s time to investigate your options. Schedule an appointment with a local attorney for your best shot at receiving the compensation you deserve.