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New London Naval Submarine Base, Connecticut

The New London Naval Submarine Base, also known as the Naval Submarine Base New London and the “Submarine Capital of the World,” began as a shipyard in 1868. In 1915, it became the US Navy’s first submarine base; since then, a number of innovations have been developed here, including the world’s first nuclear submarine.

The Naval Submarine Base New London was the heart of the Navy’s submariner program throughout the 20th century, and remains so today. During World War II, the hard work of service members stationed here contributed significantly to the US’s war efforts. Unfortunately, many of these men and women were facing more dangers than they agreed to upon enlisting. Between the 1930’s and 1970’s, the dangerous mineral asbestos was used extensively in building and repairing submarines.

The New London Naval Submarine Base and Asbestos

People who build, repair, or work on submarines often spend long periods of time in small, restricted areas. If something dangerous is introduced into the air supply, they are at serious risk for health problems. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to Navy service members during World War II and the Korean War. That dangerous substance was asbestos dust.

While asbestos is generally safe when intact, disturbing it can release asbestos dust into the air. For decades, asbestos could be found in many construction materials used by the Navy, including:

  • Sheet metal
  • Cement
  • Piping and wiring insulation
  • Floor coverings
  • Gaskets
  • Clutches and brakes

Whenever submarine builders had to install, cut, weld, or otherwise use these materials, there was the possibility that asbestos dust could be released into the air. This dust is composed of microscopic fibers that can badly damage the lungs, leading to the development of scar tissue. Over the course of years or even decades, this scar tissue can develop into chronic illnesses like asbestosis or cancers such as mesothelioma or lung cancer.

Because these diseases take so long to develop, many World War II and Korean War veterans are only now being diagnosed with them. These deadly illnesses can be devastating for affected people and their families. Some have chosen to fight back by pursuing legal claims against the negligent parties who allowed them to be exposed to asbestos without protection or warning.

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