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Shipbuilding has employed hundreds of thousands of men and women – both civilians and enlisted soldiers or officers – throughout the years, especially during times of warfare in American history. These men and women spent their days working in shipyards – building, retrofitting and repairing ships for military use.
It is estimated that in World War II alone, 4.5 million individuals were involved in the production and repair of ships in various shipyards across America and in ports with an American presence.
Unfortunately, the men and women who worked so hard to build the ships were often exposed to high amounts of asbestos. Even worse, most of these patriotic individuals had no idea they were inhaling the asbestos fibers that would one cause them diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.
Asbestos was used throughout the shipbuilding process because of its remarkable insulating and heat-shielding capacities. Boilers, hot water pipes, reactors, furnaces, steam pipes and incinerators were all covered with asbestos in order to contain the high heat used to power ships as they traveled across the Atlantic and Pacific.
Because asbestos was used so heavily on the ships, it was almost inevitable that shipbuilders and shipfitters would have physical contact with the deadly toxin on a daily basis. Asbestos dust, knocked loose from the materials it covered, collected in the poorly ventilated areas underneath the decks of ships only to be inhaled by workers on duty or even sleeping in their quarters at night.
Ships damaged in battle and brought back to shipyards for repairs or conversions offered additional opportunities for workers to touch and breathe asbestos.
Given the long latency period – about 10 to 50 years – of many asbestos-related diseases, symptoms can go unrecognized for a while. Former shipbuilders may have worked in a second or third career for so long that the connection to asbestos exposure of their youth is forgotten or never made in the first place.
In many cases, administrators in charge of the shipbuilding process knew of the dangers of asbestos exposure, but did little to inform employees of the potential dangers or provide them with protective clothing. You deserve to hold those people responsible for your asbestos exposure accountable.
If you or a loved one has been employed as a shipbuilder and believe you might have been exposed to asbestos at work, it is highly recommended that you seek counsel about your health condition and legal options. Please fill out the form below to schedule a free legal consultation with one of our experienced asbestos attorneys.