Seattle, Washington, serves as a port for many merchants who travel by water. Many shipyards and drydocks in the Seattle area provide much needed employment for the local population. However, the only problem with this type of employment happens to be the amount of asbestos exposure that workers have historically encountered.
The Lake Union Drydock Company is one of the oldest companies in the Seattle area. It was established in 1919 and is comprised of a 12 acre facility on the eastern shore of Lake Union. During the first half of the 1900s, this facility built numerous patrol crafts for the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as an assortment of recreational and passenger vessels. It even built several minesweeping ships for the Italian Navy.
The Lake Union Drydock Company serves as a repair yard and specializes in overhauling complex ships, particularly commercial cruise and fishing boats. In addition, this company also recycles old ships by breaking them down into scrap and does ship repairs on site. Currently, the yard owns two dry docks and can lift vessels that weigh up to 6,000 tons. While many other similar facilities have been forced to close, Lake Union remains operational largely thanks to government and fish-processing contracts.
The downside to working at this or any shipyard prior to the 1980s was the constant exposure to asbestos. Historically, these shipyards have used asbestos in their ship repairs and insulation. Those who work in these shipyards on the installation of fireproofing and insulation run a higher risk of developing mesothelioma. When ships are broken down, the insulation is torn apart and this can cause fibers of asbestos to be released into the air. Workers who are constantly breathing in this air have a high probability of inhaling these fibers and developing mesothelioma.
Detecting mesothelioma is not an easy thing to do. In fact, mesothelioma stays latent for a period of 20 to 50 years before it begins to show any symptoms. Symptoms include chest pains, abdominal pains, swelling, fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. The problem with these symptoms is that they are common in other illnesses as well, making the cancer difficult to diagnose.