During the 20-year period from 1980 to 2000, more than 230 residents of New Hampshire died from asbestos cancer disease. This number may well be an underestimate, since asbestos diseases are often missed or misdiagnosed. For example, the majority of the New Hampshire deaths were due to mesothelioma, which is often misdiagnosed as another type of cancer.
Industries that Provide Asbestos Exposure
Rockingham and Hillsborough Counties had the highest number of mesothelioma victims. The New Hampshire industries and jobsites that may have exposed workers and nearby residents to dangerous levels of asbestos include:
- Oil refineries
- Power plants
- Paper and pulp mills
- Navy and Air Force bases
- Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
In addition, commercial and public buildings and many private residences in New Hampshire were built with asbestos components — insulation, drywall, spackling materials, and literally hundreds of other products. Exposure to “friable” (deteriorated) asbestos can be toxic to humans and animals.
Sites Containing Asbestos in New Hampshire
City-wide fires were very common in the 19th century, which is why Henry Johns came up with asbestos as a solution in the 1850s. He was the first person to offer a product line of fireproof building products, which were used in the construction of many buildings in this state in the 1800s and 1900s.
Two of the most common work environments in New Hampshire that contain asbestos are shipyards and power plants. There was a ship fire on the SS Morro Castle in 1934 that led many shipbuilders, including many in NH, to use asbestos in the construction of their boats. People who worked in the US Navy and at the Portsmouth Naval Yard should know that they may have been exposed to asbestos for years.
Another common area in New Hampshire where asbestos was used was in petroleum processing plants. About 30% of the work-related deaths in this state are related to mesothelioma cases at the Coastal Oil refinery. Also, the gas plants in Exeter and Dover are possible sources of asbestos exposure.
Further, New Hampshire had a huge textile industry until the 1970s and was heavily involved in processing cotton for decades after the Civil War. Many of the textile mills were around Concord and Nashua. Many textile mills, such as the Star Specialty Knitting Company, used asbestos as insulation on their machinery. Even oven mitts and firefighter work clothes were made from asbestos.
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, like all U.S shipyards, was a significant source of potential asbestos poisoning. In late 1943, the Yard employed more than 20,000 men and women to make U.S. Navy ships and submarines. Thousands more individuals worked at the Yard through the 40s, 50s, and 60s, building, converting or overhauling subs.
Today, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is on the Superfund National Priorities List. Groundwater in the area is contaminated, and the clean-up costs for the Yard will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Mesothelioma Statistics in New Hampshire
From 1980 to 2000, there were 235 deaths related to asbestos exposure in NH. Mesothelioma was the most common disease, and most of the patients are concentrated in Hillsborough and Rockingham County.
New Hampshire is ranked #42 in the country for the number of mesothelioma deaths. However, it has a mortality rate from mesothelioma of 11.58 per million, so the state has a mortality rate of #28 in the US.
Asbestos Laws in New Hampshire
Bill 1369-FN-LOCAL allows the state’s department of health and human services to greatly expand its asbestos license system to include those who in any way disturb asbestos waste materials at disposal sites. This law also made clearer the state environmental departmen’s authority to better regulate sites that are used to dispose of asbestos. The law also allows property owners to not be penalized as long as they comply with asbestos disclosure requirements, or did not know that asbestos was present.
See a New Hampshire Asbestos Attorney
If you’re concerned about asbestos poisoning — whether your own or a family member’s — contact a New Hampshire asbestos attorney who represents individuals and families impacted by asbestos exposure. You may be eligible for financial compensation for losses due to an asbestos cancer disease such as lung cancer, mesothelioma or asbestosis.