To understand where and how shipyard asbestos made thousands sick with mesothelioma and other related illnesses, let’s go back to the early part of the twentieth century, around the time of the two World Wars. It was during this battle-riddled era that asbestos products really crept into the trust of navy commanders, who in 1939 actually mandated its use on all new construction.
What’s important to know about asbestos is that it happens to be a completely natural material that is both heat- and flame-resistant. It requires no chemical or other processing to achieve these qualities—it simply comes out of the ground this way. For this reason, it is exceptionally cheap in comparison to synthetic materials with similar properties, which must be man-made, thus requiring an abundance of costly time and manpower. Asbestos only needs to be removed from the rock and shale in which it naturally occurs, and that process is completed through mining—much faster and cheaper than the processes required to create artificial insulators.
During the years between WWI and the Korean War, the U.S. Navy was forced to mass-produce an unprecedented number of vessels, stretching all resources, both in terms of time and money. And so, the great shipyard asbestos trend began. The military needed to build with the cheapest and fastest material available that could be strong enough to withstand battle— and asbestos was it.
Unfortunately, what most people didn’t know at the time is that asbestos exposure is extremely dangerous for human beings—causing mesothelioma and other cancers, as well an entirely unique condition called asbestosis.
Thus, through shipyard asbestos exposure—while working on and around the navy vessels built up until the 1970s, when asbestos use was banned by the military—thousands of veterans were injured without even knowing it. Those injuries—sustained when microscopic asbestos particles became lodged in victims’ internal organs—set the stage for mesothelioma cancer and other related conditions, most of which develop over years and are most often not actually diagnosed for decades after the exposure.
Shipyard asbestos was a factor at almost every naval base across the United States during most of the last century. Any ship built prior to the military ban in 1973 likely contained a multitude of asbestos-containing components, from ceiling tiles to cement.
Some states however have more asbestos-affected naval bases and shipyards than others, and Texas—especially the southeast region—is one that is home to several. Some of the Texas locations known to have been a site of asbestos exposure, by city, are:
-Pennsylvania Shipyard in Beaumont-AMFELS in Brownsville-Boats of Freeport in Freeport-Galveston Docks in Galveston-Brown Shipbuilding Company in Houston-Houston Shipyards in Houston-Todd Shipyard in Houston-Naval Station Ingleside in Ingleside-American Bridge Shipyard in Orange-Consolidated Steel Corporation in Orange-Orange Shipbuilding Company in Orange