Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure. Much of the time, it comes from long-term exposure, such as that in a work environment. It can happen to young people in rare cases, but it is a disease typically found in the older portion of the population.
When you break down the numbers, you can see that shipyard workers face an elevated level of risk. In fact, one study found that men who worked at a Coast Guard shipyard had a “fivefold excess mortality” rate from mesothelioma. It’s clear that they were put at risk at a far greater rate than the general population or those working in other industries. Why is this?
Small spaces, long-term exposure
One potential issue is that working on ships often means working in small spaces. Proper ventilation may not be possible. If asbestos was used in the ship in the past, the fibers become trapped in these spaces and then inhaled by workers who have tasks to perform. Exposure in any situation is detrimental to one’s health, but it’s clear that these tight spaces play a role.
Shipyard workers in particular are at risk because asbestos used to see extensive use in shipbuilding and repairs. Much has changed over the decades, but many of these old ships are still in use and need constant repairs and updates. That means that workers are still exposed all the time.
Asbestos served a lot of purposes on ships. It is fire-resistant, which was very valuable since a fire on a ship could be catastrophic. This meant it was often used in furnace gaskets, pipe insulation, heat-resistant fabrics, paint, tape, machine parts, and wall and ceiling compounds. These are all systems that may need to be repaired or replaced, and every job increases the risk of inhaling these dangerous particles.
What are your options?
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and dangerous disease, caused by particles that are too small to see with the naked eye. If you have it or if you have lost a loved one, you need to know exactly what options you have.