Asbestos Concerns in Maritime: Safeguarding Workers at Sea

Asbestos exposure poses a longstanding concern for maritime industry workers, who often find themselves in potentially contaminated environments. Crew members on various types of vessels, including but not limited to, supply boats, tankers, freighters, and oil rigs, are particularly vulnerable due to working and living in confined spaces known to contain asbestos products.

The use of asbestos in ships, prevalent until the 1980s, stems from its incorporation into construction materials, a practice endorsed by the US Navy as early as the 1920s. Maritime workers were at risk due to factors such as poor ventilation and constant vessel movement, leading to the airborne dispersion of asbestos fibers.

Asbestos-containing materials were used for insulation aboard the ship and in machine parts such as gaskets, tape, packing, and insulation. It was also used in sleeping quarters as pipe insulation and between partition walls. The maritime industry’s reliance on asbestos is deeply rooted, with shipbuilders, parts, manufacturers, and the U.S. Navy using asbestos for fire safety for decades. Shipbuilders, maintenance crew, dockworkers, and other crew members endured potential contact with asbestos-containing materials.

Due to their high risk of asbestos exposure, maritime workers have an increased chance of developing an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma or lung cancer.

Products used by steel plant workers that may contain asbestos include but are not limited to:

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