One of several vessel manufacturing and repair facilities in the state of Oregon, Dyer Shipyard has a long history of boatbuilding, installation of boilers and engines, and the refurbishing and maintenance of these ships. A great number of workers were employed at the Dyer Shipyard over the past century, most of them skilled machinists, welders, painters and lathe operators.
Like many facilities that produced materials subject to high heat, the Dyer Shipyard used asbestos in much of its finished products. This included insulation in walls and ceilings, fireproof wrap that was put around pipes, coverings for electrical fuse boxes and breaker panels, and even the protective clothing worn by the employees themselves.
Since it is a fibrous material that is a form of silicate, asbestos is an ideal insulator against heat, and this was the reason for its popular use in shipbuilding facilities as well as power plants, smelting sites, and iron and steel mills. Dyer Shipyard had an environment that constantly exposed its workers to asbestos, which is easily inhaled when its particles are damaged. In addition, the fibers attach themselves to articles of clothing, allowing them to be carried from one location to another. Asbestos has been found in many homes in which a single family member faces daily exposure to the fibers and brings others in the household into contact with them.
Asbestos is a known cause of several health disorders, namely several forms of both malignant and benign cancerous growths. Asbestosis and mesothelioma are two of the most commonly seen diseases caused by overexposure to asbestos fibers. The Dyer Shipyard, along with many others in the United States, was long ago put on the list of facilities where asbestos was known to have been used in great quantity, not only in the vessels being constructed, but in the shipyard buildings as well.
Although many hazardous materials are being removed from these locations and complete toxic cleanup is underway to make such workplaces safer, employees who worked at the Dyer Shipyard and other such manufacturing sites could very well show the effects of asbestos exposure for years to come. The symptoms of certain cancers, including mesothelioma, often do not show up in medical testing for years, meaning there could be a large number of employees whose daily exposure to asbestos has not yet resulted in cancer symptoms, but may in the future.