Asbestos Exposure in Shipyards


From the early 1900s through the 1970s, asbestos was a critical element in the shipbuilding industry.  Due to its durability and high resistance to heat and corrosion as well as the fact it could be easily processed, asbestos could be found throughout most of the shipbuilding and repair process. Workers who worked in the boiler and engine rooms used asbestos for insulation purposes on pipes, gaskets, and valves.  Those involved in the construction, maintenance, and repair of the ships were exposed to asbestos when asbestos fibers in products became airborne. Asbestos was even mixed in with paint, so workers whose job it was to paint and repair the vessels were most likely exposed as well.

Due to the long latency period between the time of asbestos exposure and the development of any associated disease, those who worked in shipyards decades ago may have just received a diagnosis of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illness.  Despite increased government regulations, active U.S. Navy personnel, as well as civilians employed at shipyards, are still at risk because ships built during the early- to mid- 20th century are still in use today.

Presence of Asbestos

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, as the toxic mineral served many purposes, such as to insulate boilers, incinerators, hot water pipes and steam pipes as well as to seal pipes.  Workers in the following trades were exposed to asbestos on a regular basis during the shipbuilding process:

  • Painters
  • Electricians
  • Welders
  • Plumbers
  • General contractors

Repair and maintenance continued the ongoing risk of exposure.  These repairs often loosened asbestos particles and fibers, which became airborne.  Once these deadly fibers were inhaled, they became lodged in the lungs and remained dormant for decades.

Today, those involved with renovating and repairing older ships with asbestos-containing materials are still at risk of developing an illness caused by the exposure.   As new ships are built under the current safety regulations, decommissioned ships pose a potential hazard for shipyards.  When these older ships are dismantled, deadly asbestos fibers are released into the air, placing shipyard workers at risk.

Potential Exposure

If you or a loved one has faced potential exposure to asbestos from working in a shipyard, at any time in your/their life, it is recommended that you consult a medical professional.    If you have recently been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illness due to previous employment within the shipbuilding industry, it is important that you contact an Asbestos Lawyer immediately to discuss your rights and options for compensation.  If you are a veteran, they will help navigate the types of compensation available to those exposed to asbestos, while serving in a branch of the U.S. armed forces, such as disability benefits and pensions.  Experienced mesothelioma lawyers have the resources and knowledge to fight for the compensation that you deserve in a reasonable amount of time.