Mesothelioma, a malignant cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, is a growing concern in the medical field today. Exposure to asbestos and asbestos dust causes irritation and inflammation to the lungs over a period of time. In some cases, it can develop into mesothelioma. The onset of mesothelioma may take two to five decades from the time asbestos exposure occurs within the lungs until it appears. Because the use of asbestos was at its highest between the 1940s and 1980s, mesothelioma cases have become a growing concern among health issues today.
The ship-building industry during this time was one of the industries most reliant upon the use of asbestos. Resistance to chemicals and fire combined with its capacity to insulate heat, electricity and sound were all valuable qualities for ship construction. Asbestos insulated various parts of the ship, including wiring, furnaces, boilers, pipes, gaskets and seals. It was also used as a lining to reduce friction in moving parts. As a mineral known for its light weight and durability, asbestos functioned as an integral material in the ship-building industry.
In addition to Navy ships, asbestos was used as a primary insulation source for commercial vessels. With the onset of World War II, the use of asbestos increased dramatically with the production of Navy ships, which increased asbestos exposure to not only sailors and deckhands, but also to those constructing ships during this time period. Sailors who worked with the boilers and furnaces or worked directly with maintenance and electrical repair had the most exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos exposure also could occur through second-hand contact. The clothing that sailors, deckhands and shipbuilders wore could act as a carrier for asbestos and asbestos dust, increasing risk of exposure to family members while those who worked in the industry were on leave. Washing of these clothes could also cause asbestos clouds to form, furthering the risk of exposure to the household.
Due to its long latency period, mesothelioma can develop even in people who appear healthy. Further information on asbestos exposure and mesothelioma research is readily available, including further studies in the types of mesothelioma, various treatment options and support from various organizations dedicated to its research.