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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 >

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Charleston Naval Shipyard

The Charleston Naval Shipyard was established in 1901 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Over the years, it has also been known as the Charleston Navy Yard and Naval Base Charleston. This base played important roles in both World War II and the Korean War. During the former, many Navy ships were constructed at this site. In the 1950’s, in addition to shipbuilding activities, many submarines were repaired and overhauled by the Navy and civilians employees here.

The shipyard closed in 1996 and is currently being renovated as a commercial center known as the Navy Yard at Noisette – a name meant to acknowledge the area’s rich naval history. Unfortunately, this history encompasses tragedies as well as successes. One dark spot in the US Navy’s history is the organization’s decision to use asbestos extensively throughout the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s – a decision that has placed many innocent people’s health in danger.

Asbestos and Naval Base Charleston

Asbestos is relatively cheap to mine and highly resistant to flames and chemicals. For these reasons, it was very popular with both commercial and government organizations through much of the 20th century. In the Navy it was used to produce common building materials for ships and submarines, including:

  • Cement
  • Sheet metal
  • Insulation
  • Caulk
  • Floor coatings

People who built or repaired ships or submarines often had to handle these materials in small, enclosed spaces. In general, these workers had no knowledge of the dangerous asbestos dust being released into the air as they worked. When it is inhaled, asbestos dust can damage the lungs and other organs. Over time, this damage may develop into life-threatening diseases such as lung cancer or mesothelioma.

Shipbuilders and Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that attacks the mesothelium, the protective lining over the lungs and abdomen. Its only known cause is exposure to asbestos. It often develops slowly in its early stages, sometimes over the course of years or even decades. As a result, many workers who handled asbestos in the 1940’s or 1950’s are only now being diagnosed with this condition.

Today, some Navy veterans are choosing to take action against the parties responsible for their illnesses. Although nothing can reverse the tragedy of a mesothelioma diagnosis, some victims and their families find comfort in seeking justice. Many of them believe that an organization that knowingly exposes workers to toxins should be held accountable for this decision.

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