The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, located in Kittery, Maine, is one of the oldest established shipyards in operation in the United States Navy since 1800. This shipyard has an impressive history with one of its first vessels being the USS Washington. This ship was launched in by the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 1814.
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, during World War I, had contracts with the US government to construct submarines and was in the business of repairing ships. At the start of the war, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard had about 5,000 workers and increased to 25,000 workers by the start of World War II.
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard became the base for submarine manufacturing and development for the Navy. In 1969, the last submarine known as the Sand Lance was built by the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. This shipyard currently provides repairs, overhauls, and fuel for ships. In addition, the shipyard will also modernize vessels that need to be updated. However, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was put on the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priorities List for using hazardous materials such as asbestos.
Asbestos is a natural mineral that was used to insulate ships and fireproofing. However, the use of asbestos leads to exposure which can cause a condition known as mesothelioma. Each year about 2,000 to 3,000 mesothelioma cases are reported in the US alone.
Amount of exposure to asbestos increased during the two World Wars due to the increased number of ships being built. The amount of workers employed by the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard also increased during this time. In fact, exposure to asbestos has a second-hand effect when it was brought home to family members by workers from the shipyard. Many women have been exposed to asbestos by washing the clothes of men who worked at the shipyards. A study from 1966 showed that 50 percent of the cases of mesothelioma that occur with women are a result of exposure to someone who directly handled asbestos.
Fibers from asbestos eventually find their way into the lungs of people through inhalation. If these fibers are inhaled, they will become lodged in the lungs and over time will cause cancerous cells. These cancerous cells will eventually develop mesothelioma and could become fatal.