During its heyday, the Avondale Shipyards employed 26,000 people and the good-paying jobs were a magnet for blue collar men and women. Avondale's workforce was second to none in Louisiana during the 1970s, landing numerous military ship-building contracts. Workers boasted that there was so much work they could log as much overtime pay as they wanted. It was a tremendous economic boon. But the people who worked building and repairing ships probably didn't know they were literally risking their lives with each passing work hour.
Although asbestos was banned by 1972, the shipyards commonly worked on vessels laden with the hazardous material and the company generally failed to provide adequate protection against it. Employees often resorted to covering their faces with rags as asbestos dust was blown from ship bays and used cigarette butts to protect their inner ears.
What we know now is that large corporations like the shipyards at Avondale were often well aware of the asbestos dangers. They also generally knew that in many cases it took years to sicken or kill the very workers that helped make them rich.
Many former Avondale workers have fallen ill or lost their lives due to mesothelioma, what people commonly call "asbestos disease." It's caused by asbestos fibers getting into the lungs that then scar and damage tissue. Ultimately, this reality tends to lead to cancer. It can attack the heart, lungs and abdomen over time. Common symptoms include:
- Respiratory problems
- Chest and abdomen discomfort
- Vein obstructions
- Nerve damage
Latency period and accountability
Asbestos disease can manifest symptoms within a person early after exposure or take or as long as 50 years for chronic symptoms to appear. Its long latency period has created some obstacles for sick workers and their families seeking to pay for medical treatment and seeking to obtain compensation for their economic losses and suffering.
It's important to keep in mind that companies like those operating the Avondale Shipyards were often aware that they were putting working class men and women in harm's way each day. In this way, some of these companies are really not terribly different than Big Tobacco, which hid the truth about cigarettes and cancer so they could get rich while others suffered and died.
Thankfully, if you become ill from asbestos decades after exposure you can still sue a company for the harm it caused you and your family. Families also have the ability to file civil lawsuits for the loss of a loved one or a sick parent diagnosed with mesothelioma. If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos and suffered an illness or loss, it's imperative that you have an experienced attorney on your side. Specifically, it is important to seek guidance from an attorney experienced in mesothelioma-related law, as it is a uniquely complex area of legal concern.