Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral substance that is as dangerous as it is useful. Humans have historically used asbestos for insulation and as a fire retardant in everything from school buildings to brakes. Unfortunately, exposure to particulate asbestos is dangerous. People who inhale asbestos may eventually develop mesothelioma or other life-threatening medical conditions.
Over the years, as the dangers of asbestos have become better known, policies regulating how companies use asbestos and what products contain it have changed. In 2002, federal rule changes effectively ended the use of asbestos and ships. However, research has recently shown that even brand new ships may still contain asbestos.
Differences in international law may be to blame
While federal rules in the United States banning the use of asbestos in ships are clear, the rules are not the same in other countries. Even though there are global rules about asbestos that apply to ships established by the International Maritime Organization, not every country has adhered to the prohibition of asbestos-containing products on modern ships.
Given that the United States sources not just components but even entire vessels from international sources, it’s little surprise that not every ship adheres to the asbestos ban. International sourcing and a lack of uniform enforcement may mean that inspectors will eventually find asbestos in recently made vessels.
Especially when workers are not aware of the presence of asbestos, they may not take adequate safety precautions to prevent themselves from unsafe levels of exposure. Even the employers of those working on vessels or making repairs to ships may not realize that there is asbestos present on the worksite.
Even those who think they are safe may have future health concerns
Working in vessels or helping maintain and repair them can be an exciting and rewarding career, but it could also mean that a worker has environmental exposure to asbestos on the job.
Realizing that you or a loved one could be at risk of an asbestos-related medical condition is important. You will need to continue to screen yourself or your family member for decades after the exposure ends, as mesothelioma could take dozens of years to present symptoms.
Understanding the dangers of asbestos exposure in the workplace can help you protect yourself and the people you love from the diseases asbestos can cause.