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Asbestos was used for decades in construction and shipbuilding. If you or someone close to you has worked as a drywaller, pipefitter, or in the Navy, you may have been exposed to harmful asbestos fibers. Learn more >

Mesothelioma is a deadly, elusive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. We provide free resources to help you understand diagnosis, treatment, and more. Learn more >

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Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Hawaii

The Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard is best known for the attack on December 7, 1941 that brought the US into World War II. However, its history includes much more than that. Since 1908, Pearl Harbor has been an important Naval base, contributing to our country’s war efforts from World War I through the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Unfortunately, many of the service men and women who have served at Pearl Harbor have faced an unknown danger in addition to the accepted risks of their jobs: exposure to the toxic mineral asbestos. The Navy’s use of this substance peaked between the 1930’s and 1970’s, a period that included World War II, the Korean War, and the beginning of the Vietnam War. During all of these conflicts, Pearl Harbor workers repaired Navy ships, often using building materials containing asbestos.

Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and the Dangers of Asbestos

Through the 1970’s, the Navy often used asbestos in a variety of shipbuilding materials, including:

  • Cement
  • Insulation
  • Sheet metal
  • Floor coatings
  • Gaskets

Asbestos is generally not dangerous when it is not disturbed. Unfortunately, ship repairs like the ones performed at the Pearl Harbor Navy Shipyard require workers to take apart, saw, weld, and otherwise handle damaged and aging materials. When these materials contain asbestos, fibers can easily be released into the air and inhaled.

Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma

When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can damage the lungs and cause scar tissue to form. Over the course of years or even decades, this damage can develop into a lung condition called asbestosis, or a form of cancer called mesothelioma. Because mesothelioma can take so long to develop, many men and women who served in the Navy during World War II or the Korean War are only now being diagnosed.

Tragically, these illnesses could have easily been prevented. Although the dangers of asbestos were known to researchers at the beginning of the 20th century, the US Navy continued to build ships containing the mineral without warning service members. Today, some Navy veterans with mesothelioma and their families have begun taking action against these negligent parties.

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