Shipyard Workers and Mesothelioma from Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos’ qualities make it ideal for use on ships, especially warships. If not for the fact breathing in its fibers can cause deadly cancers and chronic illness, it might still be widely used. If you or a loved one worked at a shipyard and suffered an asbestos-related disease, Satterley & Kelley may get you the compensation you deserve.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that’s:
- Heat and fire-resistant
- Nonconductive for electricity
- Corrosion resistant
It was also cheap and plentiful during the peak of its use, starting in the early 1900s and until it was heavily regulated in the later 1970s. Onboard ships, it was used for many tasks, but primarily for heat insulation and fireproofing.
What Did Shipyard Workers Do?
Many skilled trades built and repaired ships. Shipyards were major employers during World War II and continued to employ hundreds of thousands afterward. Some of those employed at shipyards, either directly by the shipyard or by contractors, include:
- Maintenance workers
- Sheet metal workers
- Welders and solderers
- Structural fabricators and fitters
- Quality control inspectors
- Marine surveyors
- Naval architects and designers
Others at shipyards would be company management, people who worked in offices, and truck drivers delivering material.
How Were Shipyard Workers Exposed to Asbestos?
Ships are floating power plants. Many years ago, fuel was burned in boilers, which heated water into steam, which spun turbines that generated electricity that powered the ship. Even longer ago, steam directly powered propellers. All this generated tremendous amounts of heat. A major threat to ships, especially warships, is fire.
Asbestos was used to prevent fires and control heat inside the ships by insulating boilers, incinerators, hot water pipes, and steam pipes. It was used with electrical equipment and sprayed on the ship’s structure as fireproofing.
When asbestos-containing products are intact, they don’t pose a danger. Problems arise when they’re installed, disturbed, repaired, removed, or simply age. Asbestos fibers can be sent into the air, where they’re inhaled or swallowed by anyone in the area.
Shipyard workers were endangered when ships were constructed, repaired, updated, and decommissioned. Asbestos was used deep inside ships where areas could be cramped, and the ventilation was poor.
Asbestos fibers had nowhere to go in these conditions, so they filled the air and ended up on equipment and the floor. Even those not working directly with asbestos-containing products would be exposed under these circumstances.
Some of the asbestos-containing products used on ships include:
- Hydraulic assemblies and pumps
- Gaskets and valves
- Paint and coatings
It wasn’t just shipyard workers who were affected. Some would come home in their asbestos-covered clothes. The toxic fibers they carried with them could sicken their spouses and children.
What are the Dangers of Asbestos to Shipyard Workers?
Years or decades after exposure, asbestos fibers may result in severe breathing limitations (asbestosis), lung cancer, and different forms of another deadly cancer – mesothelioma, states the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Whether a shipyard worker develops one of these conditions and when is unpredictable. It depends on many factors, including:
- How many fibers the person inhaled or swallowed
- How often this happened
- The period of exposure
- How much time has passed since exposure began
- If the person smokes tobacco
Inhaled asbestos fibers can become stuck in the lungs and irritate their tissues. The immune system will try, but fail, to destroy the fibers. This process will cause scarring and inflammation in the lungs. Swallowed asbestos fibers can travel through the digestive system.
Asbestos exposure’s health complications include:
- Severe lung scarring by asbestos fibers causes asbestosis. Carbon dioxide and oxygen won’t pass into and from damaged lungs easily, so breathing becomes more difficult
- Lung cancer is a malignant growth in a lung’s air passages. Smoking and asbestos exposure dramatically increases the chances of developing lung cancer
- Pleural mesothelioma is a rare, deadly cancer of the membrane covering the lungs and chest cavity (pleura). Symptoms may not show for three or four decades after being exposed to asbestos
- Peritoneal mesothelioma is a cancer of the membrane covering the abdominal cavity and organs
- Pericardial mesothelioma involves the membrane covering the heart
If you worked in a shipyard when asbestos-containing products were present, you should see your healthcare provider to see if you have any of these medical conditions.
How Harmful is Mesothelioma?
Pleural mesothelioma is a rare, treatable, but incurable cancer, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It’s caused by asbestos fibers that work their way into the pleura after being inhaled into the lungs. They start a long series of cell mutations that cause the condition.
About 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma every year. Treatment may prolong and improve the quality of your life, but the life expectancy for most with pleural mesothelioma is one to four years after diagnosis.
A study of peritoneal mesothelioma patients published in a 2013 article in the European Journal of Cancer estimates 43.6% of them survived seven or more years after treatment. A study of pericardial mesothelioma patients states the average survival after diagnosis was two months.
Call Us Today For A Free Consultation
If you or a loved one worked in a shipyard and was diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, Satterley & Kelley lawyers can answer your questions, talk about your legal rights to compensation, and discuss the necessary steps to protect them.