Louisiana’s waterways and access to the Gulf of Mexico have long made it a prime area for ship construction and launching. Mass construction of ships has brought many workers to the industry in the shipyards.
However, we are now seeing the consequences of certain practices that were permitted in these shipyards for many years, up until the 1980s. Specifically, the asbestos exposure resulting from working in or around Louisiana shipyards has caused health problems for many, many workers and former workers.
Why and Where Was Asbestos Used?
The White Lung Association explains that asbestos was used in almost every part of shipbuilding. It was a primary ingredient in insulation and paint, in particular. Between the paint and the fact that asbestos was used to insulate pipes within the ship, nearly everyone working in or on these ships was exposed to some amount of asbestos.
For some time, asbestos was simply used because it was useful. It is highly resistant to fire and is easier and cheaper to use than alternative materials. It was not initially known how damaging it was to inhale asbestos dust or fibers. However, when there started to be evidence of harm resulting from asbestos exposure, companies were still reluctant to change their methods and materials.
Who Was Responsible for Asbestos Exposure?
In the Louisiana shipyards and shipyards around the country, the companies that owned the yards were deemed legally responsible for the continued exposure of their workers to asbestos. Large-scale change is difficult and expensive to implement, so many companies were reluctant to admit that asbestos exposure from their facilities was what had caused the illness – and in many cases, death – of their workers.
However, advancing science eventually proved that not only was the asbestos inhaled in shipyards responsible for many workers developing symptoms years later, but also that there was no “safe” level of asbestos. Early regulations attempted to put caps on the amount of asbestos, but this still resulted in many workers becoming ill.
What Effects Has Asbestos Exposure Had?
First of all, it is obvious that it had a major effect on the health of many shipyard workers. Thousands, even tens of thousands of people around the country have ended up becoming seriously ill or dying from the large amounts of asbestos that they regularly encountered in their work, often with no protection. The cost in human life and human grief as the families of afflicted workers have to deal with their loss cannot be overestimated.
As a secondary effect, this has had a huge effect on the shipyard industry itself. Many companies had to pay damages to their workers as a result of failing to take proper precautions or to remove asbestos from the construction process when they found out it was dangerous. While it is only right and fair that they have to pay for the illness they caused in their workers, the practice was so widespread that many ship manufacturers have gone bankrupt since asbestos was fully banned, either due to paying damages or to the expense of changing their practices.
Since asbestos was used extensively in shipbuilding until just over 30 years ago, and the effects of asbestos exposure may not show up until years later, it is no surprise that Louisiana shipyards are now being linked to many illnesses. Former shipyard workers should learn about the potential dangers from the exposure they may have suffered, and should also try to learn their rights in the case of wrongdoing by their employer that results in an asbestos-related illness for them.
What If You Need Help?
Whether you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, you can depend on the highly qualified and experienced team of mesothelioma lawyers at Landry & Swarr. We are happy to discuss your options – and when the time is right we will handle the legal proceedings with one simple call from you to start the process.