Shipyard Workers Shows Risk Of Mesothelioma. A new study involving Baltimore shipyard workers shows that the risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-induced diseases is prevalent among shipyard workers.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium, the tissue that covers the majority of the internal organs. Asbestos exposure is the primary risk factor for the development of mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer. For most people a cure is not possible. Doctors may be able to control the cancer for a time through a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, the Mayo Clinic explains. Nearly 10,000 veterans die each year from asbestos-related diseases.
When asbestos fibers are inhaled, the microscopic fibers can cause inflammation, leading to scarring and genetic changes that can result in cancer and asbestosis, a chronic lung disease. The process is slow: asbestos-induced diseases can take from 20 to 50 years to develop after exposure. This is why mesothelioma and asbestosis cases continue to emerge although asbestos has not been used in insulation and construction materials for more than 40 years.
The attorneys at Parker Waichman are knowledgeable about the dangers of asbestos exposure and can provide information for those who have questions about an asbestos lawsuit.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma Risk
The new analysis, conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Institute, the Uniformed Services University in Maryland, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, analyzed the mesothelioma risk in workers employed by the Coast Guard Shipyard in Baltimore from 1950 to 1964. The study found that individuals who worked during this time are at a higher risk for lung cancer, mesothelioma, and early death. The researchers traced the medical histories of more than 4,700 shipyard workers.
These shipyard workers were exposed on a daily basis to substances including solvents, lead, oils and greases, wood dust, and asbestos. The research team tracked the workers’ medical histories through 2001. Calculating exposures using standardized mortality ratios, the researchers found that all five chemical categories had a relationship to the heightened risk of mesothelioma and lung cancer. But asbestos exposure was so pervasive that it confounded their analysis of the effects of the other pollutants.
This study, published online in February 2017 in the Archives of Environmental and Occupational Health, supports previous research findings that the longer individuals worked in these environments, the higher their mesothelioma risk.
Asbestos was once called the “miracle mineral” for its strength, sound absorption, and heat and fire resistance properties. Until the 1970s, asbestos was used in applications including insulation, brakes, fire resistant fabrics, shingles, ceiling tiles, wallboard, and flooring. From the 1930s through the 1970s, naval ships contained asbestos as a fireproofing material. Asbestos was one of the components in the toxic dust released in the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center towers collapse.
Navy ships contained asbestos components in areas ranging from the engine rooms to the dining areas. The workers building those ships were exposed to asbestos on a daily basis, though most were unaware of the risks asbestos exposure presented. Asbestos fibers in the air can be inhaled or swallowed and can eventually cause serious health problems.
Asbestos exposure was a risk for many other workers in addition to shipyard workers. Asbestos miners, auto mechanics and auto plant workers, ceiling and floor tile makers and installers, construction workers, custodians, demolition crews, electricians, painters, railroad workers, and workers in factories that manufactured plastic or heat-resistant fabrics and clothing. Even family members of people who worked with asbestos were at risk from asbestos fibers carried home on a worker’s clothing. Asbestos-related diseases have hit the World War II generation particularly hard. These men and women were exposed to asbestos during the massive defense manufacturing efforts during the war and the building boom after the war.
In 1983, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set out restrictions on asbestos, and since then use of asbestos has declined sharply. But because asbestos use was so widespread for much of the twentieth century, asbestos is still found in many older buildings, including homes and schools. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has banned new uses for asbestos. Because asbestos exposure is now known to be so dangerous, federal, state, and local authorities have developed strict asbestos abatement protocols to ensure that asbestos can be safely removed from buildings without exposing building occupants or workers to the dangerous fibers.