Philadelphia Naval Shipyard
The Philadelphia Navy Shipyard opened as a private business in 1776 and joined the US Navy in 1801. It expanded greatly after that and made important contributions to many of the US’s war efforts, especially during World War II. Most operations on the yard were ceased in 1995, and the area is now known as the Philadelphia Naval Business Center.
Activity on the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard peaked during World War II, when it employed over 40,000 workers and repaired over 500 Navy ships. Sadly, this time period was also the height of asbestos use in the US Navy. Without knowing the danger they were in, many sailors and civilians were exposed to this toxin as they constructed and repaired Navy ships.
Asbestos and the Philadelphia Navy Yard
During World War II, the primary purpose of the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard was to construct battleships and repair damaged vessels. These tasks often required employees to work in small, enclosed spaces. When toxic substances such as asbestos dust were released into the air, it was virtually impossible to avoid inhaling them.
The Navy used asbestos to create a variety of materials that were used in ship construction and repair, including:
- Sheet metal
- Insulation for wires and pipes
- Floor coatings
Navy workers who handled these materials were rarely given respiratory equipment or even warned about the health risks they were facing. As a result, many Navy veterans have since developed serious asbestos-related conditions, such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Because these diseases can take years to become symptomatic, new diagnoses are still being made among World War II veterans to this day.
Some of these veterans have decided to take action against the parties responsible for their illnesses. While nothing can undo the pain of a serious diagnosis or losing a loved one to a preventable illness, legal action has helped some mesothelioma patients and their families receive compensation for medical bills and other severe financial losses.