Asbestos, known for its unique properties, was a popular construction material, including those used for shipbuilding. Despite links to cancer as early as the 1930s, regulatory gaps allowed asbestos to remain on newly built ships. Unfortunately, the people working in shipyards are the ones paying the price.
Why is asbestos still present in shipyards?
Asbestos is an affordable and readily available material that is resistant to heat, corrosion and chemicals. It can also enhance the durability of other construction materials. As a result, old navy ships had asbestos in nearly every corner.
Although there were moves to regulate its use back in 2011, asbestos was still used to build ships. Even now, the ban on its use is not consistent across countries. Even though a ship is free from asbestos, it may come back with contaminated replacement parts from another country after repair.
Asbestos exposure and its effect on shipyard workers
Removing asbestos is a complex and often expensive process that ship operators may not want to undertake. Unfortunately, this can put the health of shipyard workers at risk.
Disturbing or damaging materials in the ship containing asbestos release its fibers into the air. Individuals who breathe in or ingest these fibers may not know they are infected until too late.
Symptoms of asbestos exposure can take 10 to 40 years to manifest. At first, workers may experience persistent coughing or a burning throat. However, long-term exposure can cause asbestosis and various cancers, including mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Claiming workers’ compensation
State and federal workers’ compensation laws should allow qualified shipyard workers who develop an illness from asbestos exposure to claim workers’ compensation benefits.
Individuals suffering from asbestos-related diseases may require extensive medical treatments and potential hospitalization to regain their health. Workers’ compensation benefits can offer eligible workers financial assistance, easing their burden and supporting their journey to recovery.