Vessel construction and maintenance are some of the biggest tasks performed by the United States Navy. Both civilian and military service members can end up doing intense labor on naval ships.
Shipfitters are skilled workers who handle materials to help build, maintain or repair large seafaring vessels. Whether you worked as a civilian or as a member of the Navy, a career in shipfitting may have meant frequent environmental exposure to asbestos.
Historically, asbestos has been a popular material for insulating purposes. It provides thermal insulation and also serves as a fire retardant. It is naturally occurring and relatively cheap, making it a great resource for those trying to maintain a fleet of seaworthy vessels. Unfortunately, if you worked as a shipfitter, you need to monitor yourself for the signs of mesothelioma as you age.
Shipfitters are at medical risk because of their work
Several decades ago, employment safety rules regarding asbestos exposure were different. The government thought there was a safe level of exposure and did not require that all workers have adequate equipment and training before handling asbestos.
Shipfitters, who often work in open-air environments, may have not seemed like at-risk employees. Unfortunately, knowledge has shifted and exposed how dangerous those previous practices were. Medical professionals now recognize that no level of environmental asbestos exposure is safe.
Any inhaled asbestos can eventually contribute to someone’s risk for developing serious illnesses, including mesothelioma. It may take decades before a retired shipfitter presents symptoms of mesothelioma, which means monitoring for signs of illness is necessary.
How to spot the warning signs of mesothelioma
The early warning signs of mesothelioma may not seem severe. Often, people develop shortness of breath, pain in the chest, trouble swallowing and coughs. Unexplained weight loss is another common symptom.
Those who have worked with asbestos in the past cannot afford to ignore these symptoms. Seeing a doctor and making sure that they know about your previous environmental asbestos exposure is crucial to your protection as a worker with higher-than-average risk for asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma.
Identifying the warning signs of mesothelioma can lead to quicker diagnosis and a better prognosis for those who develop this debilitating form of cancer because of their career.