Though asbestos has never been officially banned in the United States, government agencies have publicly recognized its toxicity for the past 40 years, when laws were first passed to severely limit its use in instances that would put the public at risk. In the decades prior to that, however, countless workers were exposed to the mineral, long known for its strength and – in particular – its fire resistant properties.
Among those most at risk for exposure were the individuals – both civilian and military – that worked in the nation’s shipyards. Way back to the early decades of the 20th century and well into the years of the Vietnam War, shipbuilding facilities were filled with materials that contained toxic asbestos. The mineral could be found nearly everywhere aboard our military vessels, from the inner workings of the engine room where it insulated pipes, boilers, and other machinery, to the walls of the common areas including the mess and bunk rooms. That meant that nearly every individual working during a ship’s building or rebuilding process was exposed to asbestos. Furthermore, those that eventually served onboard were exposed as well.
The most rampant exposure occurred during World War II and the Korean War, when many asbestos product manufacturers were already suspecting that asbestos was dangerous but were doing little or nothing to warn users. That meant workers were going about their daily responsibilities without the benefit of wearing any sort of gear that may have protected them from inhalation, including masks or respirators. Workers that may have been affected include:
- General contractors
Today, because diseases like mesothelioma usually remain latent for several decades, some of these shipyard workers are just now discovering that this long-ago exposure was deadly. Many have probably forgotten about the exposure or, more likely, were totally unaware that their jobs were putting their health at risk.
A number of the nation’s once-busiest shipyards have seen the highest number of cases among former military and civilian workers, including:
- Brooklyn Navy Yard
- Philadelphia Navy Yard
- San Diego Naval Shipyard
- Long Beach Naval Shipyard
- Todd Shipyards
- And many others
Of course, individuals who worked at building cruise ships, pleasure boats, and other craft during that same time period may have also been exposed to asbestos on-the-job as the same sorts of asbestos-containing materials were being used to construct those vessels.
Regardless of what kinds of ships these workers were building, the fact remains that studies by organizations such as the National Institutes of Health maintain that shipyard employees of days-gone-by are more than 15 times more likely to develop asbestosis than the general public…and many of those cases of asbestosis will morph into serious asbestos cancer.
Individuals who’ve been struck by mesothelioma due to work-related exposure in the nation’s shipyards should take time to investigate their legal rights pertaining to compensation for treatment and other expenses. Help is available and an experienced mesothelioma attorney can certainly lend a hand in exploring the right avenues for obtaining assistance.