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Asbestos Exposure

Materials Containing Asbestos

Most insulation materials before the mid-1970s contained asbestos. Many other construction materials also contained asbestos. Some of the most common products were:

  • Insulation on pipes
  • Boiler insulation
  • Insulating cements, plasters and joint compounds that came in powder form and created a lot of dust before being completely mixed with water
  • Fireproofing spray insulation
  • Firebrick and gunnite used for internal insulation of furnaces, boilers and other vessels
  • Roof, floor and ceiling tiles
  • Transite siding
  • Brakes and clutches

Most Commonly Exposed Personnel

The following Navy personnel could have worked around asbestos:

  • Boilermen
  • Enginemen
  • Firemen
  • Machinist Mates
  • Shipfitters
  • Pipefitters
  • Electrician's Mates
  • Seabees (military construction)
  • Civilian shipyard workers

Shipboard Exposure

Fire and engine rooms aboard ship typically had the highest exposure because of the insulation and refractory products necessary in these high-heat areas, but no area was considered safe. Pipe coverings throughout the ship were covered with asbestos lagging, and literally ran inches over the bunks in the sleeping quarters. In addition, ships crews generally lived and worked aboard ships during routine maintenance operations and sometimes while their ships were overhauled in dry docks over months long periods.

Shipyard Exposure

During World War II, large quantities of asbestos used by shipyards as they built, overhauled and decommissioned warships, exposed thousands of shipyard workers to its insidious effects. Based on statistics, working in an American shipyard during the war years was almost as deadly as fighting in the war itself. The combat death rate was roughly 18 per thousand service members. For every thousand wartime shipyard employees, about 14 died of asbestos-related cancer, and unknown numbers died of asbestosis or related complications.

In 1984, a medical survey of shipyard workers at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, VA, showed that 79 percent of these workers exhibited signs of lung abnormalities consistent with asbestos exposure, while x-rays given to 90 wives of workers revealed 8 to 9 percent showed similar abnormalities.

U. S. Government (Naval) Shipyards where ships were built and/or overhauled include:

  • Boston Naval Shipyard, Charlestown, MA
  • Charleston Naval Shipyard, Charleston, SC
  • Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard, San Francisco, CA
  • Long Beach Naval Shipyard, Long Beach, CA
  • Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, CA
  • New York Naval Shipyard, Brooklyn, NY
  • Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, VA
  • Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia, PA
  • Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, ME
  • Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, WA

Private Sector Shipyards where Navy ships, Liberty ships and Victory ships were also built include:

  • Alabama Dry Dock & Shipbuilding Company, Mobile, AL
  • American Bridge Company, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Associated Shipbuilders, Inc., Seattle, WA
  • Bath Iron Works Corporation, Bath, ME
  • Bethlehem Steel Company, Hingham, MA
  • Bethlehem Steel Company, Quincy, MA
  • Bethlehem Steel Company, San Francisco, CA
  • Bethlehem Steel Company, San Pedro, CA
  • Bethlehem Steel Company, Staten Island, NY
  • Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards, Inc., Baltimore, MD
  • Brown Shipbuilding Company, Houston, TX
  • California Shipbuilding Corporation, Los Angeles, CA
  • Chicago Bridge & Iron Company, Seneca, IL
  • Consolidated Steel Corporation, Orange, TX
  • Cramp Shipbuilding Company, Philadelphia, PA
  • Defoe Shipbuilding Company, Bay City, MI
  • Delta Shipbuilding Company, New Orleans, LA
  • Dravo Corporation, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Dravo Corporation, Wilmington, DE
  • Electric Boat Company, Groton, CT
  • Federal Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, Kearny, NJ
  • Federal Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, Port Newark, NJ
  • Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation, Chickasaw, AL
  • J. A. Jones Construction Company, Brunswick, GA
  • J. A. Jones Construction Company, Panama City, FL
  • Jeffersonville Boat & Machine Company, Jeffersonville, IN
  • Kaiser Company, Richmond, CA
  • Kaiser Company, Vancouver, WA
  • Lake Washington Shipyards, Houghton, WA
  • Manitowoc Shipbuilding Corporation, Manitowoc, WI
  • Marinship Corporation, Sausalito, CA
  • Missouri Valley Bridge & Iron Company, Evansville, IN
  • Moore Dry Dock Company, Oakland, CA
  • New England Shipbuilding Company, South Portland, ME
  • New York Shipbuilding Company, Camden, NJ
  • Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, Newport News, VA
  • North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, Wilmington, NC
  • Oregon Shipbuilding Company, Portland, OR
  • Permanente Metals Corporation, #1 Yard, Richmond, CA
  • Permanente Metals Corporation, #2 Yard, Richmond, CA
  • Southeastern Shipbuilding Corporation, Savannah, GA
  • St. John's River Shipbuilding Company, Jacksonville, FL
  • Sun Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, Chester, PA
  • Tampa Shipbuilding Company, Inc., Tampa, FL
  • Todd Houston Shipbuilding Corporation, Houston, TX
  • Todd Pacific Shipyards, Inc., Seattle, WA
  • Todd Pacific Shipyards, Inc., Tacoma, WA
  • Todd Shipyards, Inc., Los Angeles, CA
  • Western Pipe & Steel Company of California, San Pedro, CA
  • Willamette Iron & Steel Corporation, Portland, OR
  • Walsh-Kaiser

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