Shipyard workers across the U.S. were exposed to asbestos for decades. Many have developed asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer. During World War II, shipyard workers and military personnel were often exposed to asbestos-covered boilers, steam pipes, wall insulation, turbines, pipe covering, gaskets, pumps, cement and other asbestos containing products.
In later years, those who worked around asbestos–contaminated pipes, boilers and other items in shipyards were also exposed to asbestos dust. Overhauling an old ship, which most likely contains asbestos, poses a very high health risk.
Longshoremen, or those who load and unload ships, were also exposed to asbestos when handling items such as asbestos–containing insulation and fireproofing materials and many times raw asbestos fiber. Before the 1980s, they may even have loaded bundles of asbestos fibers from the various ports around the country. In most cases, they were not aware of the dangerous nature of these materials, and did not take any special precautions.
Mesothelioma Risk For Longshoremen And Shipbuilders
The health consequences of asbestos exposure in the shipyard are great. One medical study followed a group of workers with 20 or more years of employment in ship repair work, and found that 86 percent developed asbestos–related lung cancer (Irving Selikoff, MD; William Nicholson, Ph.D.; and Ruth Lilis, MD; 1980; Environmental Services Laboratory, Dept. of Community Medicine, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine). The risk continues as attempts are made to renovate asbestos–containing ships and control damaged asbestos in shipyard buildings and structures.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA regulates asbestos exposure in the shipyard (OSHA Regulation 29 CFR 1915.1001). A current rule covers demolition, construction, repair of asbestos–containing structures and vessels, emergency procedures in the case of an asbestos spill, and methods for asbestos cleanup and disposal.
If you or a member of your family has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer or any asbestos-related disease as a result of asbestos shipyard exposure, it is important to retain the services of an experienced asbestos attorney as soon as possible.