Louisiana’s waterways and access to the Gulf of Mexico have long been a prime area for ship construction and launching. Mass construction of ships has brought many workers to the industry in the shipyards or shipbuilding companies.

However, we are now seeing the consequences of certain practices permitted in these shipyards for many years, up until the 1980s. 

Over the past century, many U.S. job sites have manufactured and allowed the use of asbestos and other carcinogens—putting Louisiana workers and their families at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.

Here are some shipyard and shipyard companies with known cases of asbestos exposure in the workplace:

  • Avondale Shipyards 
  • Bollinger Shipyard
  • Higgins Industries 
  • Todd Shipyard
  • Conrad Industries

Specifically, the asbestos exposure from working in or around Louisiana shipyards has caused health problems for many workers and former workers. Workers in shipyards and the shipbuilding industry who worked between World War II and the Korean War were very likely to experience occupational exposure to asbestos. 

Why and Where Was Asbestos Used?

The White Lung Association explains that asbestos was used in almost every part of shipbuilding. Before we knew the dangers of asbestos, it was considered a cost-effective, reliable solution because of its durability, heat resistance, and fireproofing in the shipbuilding industry. 

Many of the Louisiana shipyards relied heavily on asbestos materials. It was a primary ingredient in insulation and paint, in particular. Between the paint and the asbestos insulation in the pipe linings of 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 was used to insulate the ship’s hulls, pipes, incinerators, boilers, and materials such as gaskets, valves, and cement. 

Asbestos exposure below deck was hazardous due to poor ventilation. The poor ventilation allowed asbestos dust to collect in small areas, making those fibers even more concentrated in the air and leading to a higher risk of exposure. Shipyard workers also risked exposure when asbestos products were disturbed on the ship, especially when working below decks in those poorly ventilated quarters.

However, it was not initially known how damaging it was to inhale asbestos dust or asbestos fibers. 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 the asbestos inhaled in shipyards was responsible for many workers developing symptoms years later and 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, asbestos exposure has significantly affected the health of many shipyard workers and U.S. Navy veterans. These two groups are at high risk of asbestos-related diseases. 

Virtually every occupation at the shipyard was at risk of significant asbestos exposure, pipe fitters, boiler workers, electricians, insulators, and welders.

Thousands, even tens of thousands of people around the country, have ended up becoming seriously ill or dying from the large amounts of asbestos they regularly encountered in their work, often with no protection. The cost of 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 considerable impact on the shipyard industry itself. Many companies had to pay damages to their workers due to failing to take proper precautions or removing asbestos from the construction process when they found it 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 at 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.  Many people developed asbestos-related diseases, such as: 

  • Asbestosis (a chronic lung disease)
  • Lung cancer
  • Malignant mesotheliomas – including pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma

Today, only a few shipyards remain in the United States, yet more mesothelioma victims are diagnosed every year.

After asbestos exposure, the symptoms of mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases have a long latency period, taking decades to present themselves in the body. 

Former shipyard workers should learn about the potential dangers from the exposure they may have suffered and should also try to understand their rights in the case of wrongdoing by their employer that results in an asbestos-related illness.

What If You Need Help?

Whether you, a family member or a loved one 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 have a great amount of experience handling asbestos lawsuits for clients from Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and throughout Louisiana.

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. Contact our law firm at 504-299-1214 or fill out our form for a free consultation.