Asbestos, a known carcinogen since the 1940s, has many former shipyard workers experiencing the effects of its toxicity today.The fibers of this deadly mineral are so durable that they can remain in the body for years. The long latency period between asbestos exposure and illness means that asbestos-related diseases may not appear until decades after the first exposure.
Heavily mined due to its durability and high resistance to heat and corrosion as well as the fact it could be easily processed, asbestos was a critical element in the shipbuilding industry. From boiler rooms to engine rooms to sleeping quarters, asbestos could be found from bow to stern.
For shipyard workers, the exposure began with the loading, unloading and handling of those products already containing asbestos, such as the crates and packaging materials used to transport the items needed for shipbuilding.The risk for asbestos continued throughout the shipbuilding process, exposing workers in the following trades:
- General contractors
Diseases Caused by Asbestos Exposure
Common diseases from asbestos exposure former shipyard workers are experiencing today are asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer.
Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos.The asbestos fibers attack the lining of the lungs, which results in scarring and hardening of the lung tissue.Over time, the condition worsens restricting breathing and causing chest pains.Asbestosis is typically treated with breathing treatments and prescription medicine.
Mesothelioma affects the mesothelium, or the lining around the body's internal organs. It usually appears in the lungs, but has been known to attack other organs as well. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain and abdominal pain. These symptoms usually do not occur until 20-30 years after the victim's first exposure to asbestos. There is no known cure for mesothelioma, but treatments are available to help minimize symptoms.
The most commonly linked cancer from inhalation of dust particles containing asbestos fibers is lung cancer.These nearly invisible and needle-like fibers become embedded the lung tissue, as opposed to the linings of the lung.Treatment typically includes surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.