In the years before and during World War II, thousands of naval shipyard workers were subjected to asbestos exposure at toxic levels. These men and women include both military personnel and civilians who spent months, often years, building and repairing the ships in a navy shipyard. Asbestos was a popular material at the time, and mesothelioma among naval shipyard workers is alarmingly common. The shipbuilding industry has one of the highest rates of asbestos diseases, including mesothelioma, because of the many ship components that are in part or completely made of asbestos. The decades from the pre-World War II years until the 1970s saw the highest use of asbestos by naval shipyard workers.

Naval Shipyard Workers in Other Eras

World War II naval shipyard workers were not the only people whose asbestos exposure was dangerously high; navy shipyard workers who were active in peacetime, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War were also at risk, as were their family members. Inadequate asbestos safety precautions at a shipyard or any other location where asbestos is used can cause diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. The naval shipyard workers who have developed mesothelioma include both men and women, Navy personnel and civilian contractors, and the family members of those who worked in the shipyard near asbestos, such as:

  • plumbers
  • pipefitters
  • boilerworkers
  • laggers
  • insulation installers
  • construction workers
  • machinery repairmen
  • machinists’ mates

Asbestos in Products Causes Cancer

Asbestos was commonly and widely used in both the vessels and the shipyards themselves as an insulator, a fireproof material, and a friction-resistant component of vehicles and machinery. You may be at risk for developing mesothelioma if you ever worked in a navy shipyard. Asbestos exposure was common, and people did not realize the serious side effects of working with it. Asbestos could be found nearly everywhere around navy ships, in applications such as:

  • Welding blankets
  • Insulation in housing and other buildings
  • Boiler room products
  • Wrapped around plumbing, ventilation, and electrical components
  • Emergency generators
  • Fireproofing spray
  • Flooring
  • Gaskets in flanged pipe joints
  • Machine rooms
  • Sprayed insulation

Naval shipyard workers were exposed to asbestos in numerous places, often without knowing the dangers associated with the toxic fibers. Asbestos fibers are microscopic and when inhaled, they can become lodged in the internal organs. Individuals who inhaled the fibers had no way of knowing, and by the time the symptoms of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related cancers appear, it’s usually too late.

Decades after the Asbestos Exposure

Mesothelioma in naval shipyard workers has become a more frequent diagnosis in the last decade or so, because the disease takes anywhere from 15 to 50 years after the initial asbestos exposure to finally make itself apparent. The symptoms of mesothelioma that the naval shipyard workers experience are often first diagnosed as signs of some other disease such as asbestosis or angina, until rigorous testing reveals that they are suffering from mesothelioma. Often, it is too late for any effective treatment.

Asbestos Regulations: Too Late for Many Shipyard Workers

Starting in 1973, the U.S. Maritime Administration implemented regulations that severely restricted the use of asbestos in shipyards, and since the late ’70s, federal contracts for ships have required that all insulation on the ships no longer have asbestos as an ingredient. However, for the hundreds of existing cases of mesothelioma in naval shipyard workers, these limitations on the use of asbestos came far too late.

Today’s Mesothelioma Cancer Risk in Naval Shipyard Workers

Today, the “asbestos remediation” efforts to remove the dangerous, deteriorating asbestos components of Navy ships are actually the most common source of asbestos exposure. The components being removed or renovated include:

  • steam pipes
  • hot water pipes
  • boilers
  • tanks
  • ceiling tiles
  • bulkhead parts

When the asbestos insulation or other asbestos-containing parts are disturbed during their removal (e.g., torn, cut, scraped or sawed out), it is a danger to people in the vicinity, because the asbestos fibers will be released into the air where they can be inhaled.

Asbestos Cancer and Naval Shipyard Workers

If you are a former naval shipyard worker concerned about possible asbestos exposure, or if you’ve been diagnosed with an asbestos cancer illness, contact Mesothelioma Treatment Centers online today. We can provide you with information regarding possible resources and discuss your options for financing mesothelioma treatment. The treatment options you have will depend on the progression of your disease. A lawyer can determine whether or not you can seek compensation for your illness. It is important to have a good attorney on your side, so you can focus on your treatment instead of worrying about medical bills.

Naval Shipyard Workers (English) / Mesotelioma en Trabajadores de Astilleros Navales (Spanish)