Longshoremen and Asbestos Exposure

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During World War II, asbestos was widely employed in shipbuilding owing to its high resistance to heat and excellent insulation properties - the same characteristics that led to its extensive usage in consumer goods. As a result, shipyard workers and military personnel were often exposed to asbestos-containing boilers, steam pipes, wall insulation, turbines, pipe coverings, gaskets, pumps, and cement.

Longshoremen, also known as harbor workers or dock laborers, are employed primarily to load and unload docked ships. Regular job tasks often required a longshoreman to load and unload cargo to and from vessels, and also sort and distribute cargo for shipping and processing. Most of the time, they were unaware of the dangers of these products and did not take any special precautions.

Quoting Rich T., longshoreman on several shipyards including the Alabama Dry Dock: "I wasn't alerted as to the dangers of these products nor was I warned to wear a face mask for protection." He was diagnosed in 2004 with lung cancer stage 2 caused by asbestos exposure.

The results of one medical research that monitored a group of employees who had worked on ships and/or shipyards for 20 years or more indicated that 86 percent of them developed asbestos-related lung cancer.

Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer Risk for Longshoremen

Whenever a longshoreman is carrying asbestos-containing cargo, the mere act of moving the items may cause the asbestos to be disturbed, causing the fibers to become airborne and inhaled - potentially leading to the development of life-threatening diseases if the asbestos fibers become embedded in the longshoreman's lungs.

Below the deck, ventilation was inadequate and airflow was limited. This made the situation especially hazardous for those who worked in the cargo hold, unloading, and loading boxes and freight. However, longshoremen were not exposed to asbestos only when they were on the ships; they also were commonly exposed to asbestos when they were handling cargo as well, as crates and pallets were often covered with asbestos fibers from the ship or even from the cargo itself.

Longshoremen were exposed to carcinogenic asbestos in the course of their activities such as:

  • move large cargo containers
  • unload cargo and organize them on ships
  • prepare cargo for lifting
  • load cargo on trucks
  • unload cargo on trucks
  • stack cargo on ships and other vessels
  • secure cargo on vessels

Asbestos was extensively used during the shipbuilding boom of WWII through the Vietnam conflict. This is particularly concerning considering that many of these asbestos-laden vessels may be utilized for decades, not to mention that signs of asbestos-related illnesses may not appear for 10 to 40 years after asbestos exposure. This means that many of the longshoremen who were exposed to asbestos many years ago may still develop lung cancer, mesothelioma, bronchial cancer, and other pulmonary illnesses.

What Can Navy Veterans, or Former Longshoremen Adversely Affected by Exposure to Asbestos Do?

You most likely came into contact with asbestos if you worked as a longshoreman prior to the 1980s. Although the duration of your exposure may have a significant effect on your risk of disease, even short-term asbestos exposure may be harmful. If you have a history of exposure to asbestos, speak with your healthcare practitioner about the risks. If you have mesothelioma or asbestosis, your healthcare practitioner will most likely arrange regular health monitoring, which will include pulmonary scans to look for indications of asbestos-related disease.

To be eligible for compensation, Navy veterans or former longshoremen must prove that they have an asbestos-related illness as a result of exposure while serving in the military. It may be difficult to determine exactly when and where the asbestos exposure occurred, but an expert attorney can help you with this process.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or an asbestos-related disease as a result of asbestos exposure, it is important to retain the services of an experienced asbestos attorney as soon as possible. We can help you by connecting with professionals we trust to assist you in obtaining the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering.

Questions about asbestos exposure? We can help!

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