Founded by the organization that operated Sun Oil in the early 1900s, Sun Shipbuilding played an important role during both World Wars. The facility is located in Chester, Pennsylvania, and is also infamous for building large oil tankers that were the first of their kind. One of the biggest clients was Standard Oil Company, which helped to revolutionize the way oil would be transported around the world. When war broke out, the company took on a multitude of contracts with the US military. Employees totaled an impressive 35,000, making this one of the largest facilities for shipbuilding in the entire US.
The business also specialized in creating hospital and cargo ships as well. Unfortunately, shipyard practices of the time required the use of asbestos. Though it is known to be a highly dangerous substance today, it was regarded as a cheap and effective means to build ships in the beginning of the last century. The Federal Government wouldn’t actually ban the material from use until the mid-1970s. Until that time, many workers in shipbuilding facilities across the US were exposed to large amounts of the carcinogen.
Today, scientists have made a clear link between mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that affects the pleural linings of organs like the heart, lungs and stomach. Once asbestos dust and particulates have been inhaled, the body has no means of getting rid of it. After years of cells being exposed to the material, they can become damaged and turn cancerous. Because it takes decades for the disease to manifest, many previous employees of shipyards do not associate current symptoms with prior exposure.
Asbestos was commonly used for insulation in boiler rooms, as well as many other shipbuilding applications. Many workers installed or maintained the substance on a daily basis, putting them at heightened risk of developing one of the rare asbestos related diseases. Not everybody who has inhaled or been exposed to the material is going to develop complications. In fact, most previous shipyard employees will have no problems at all, as we naturally inhale this chemical every day. Those who do exhibit mesothelioma symptoms may find it difficult to determine the actual reason for their sickness. Most employees simply don’t know or can’t remember that they had dealt with the material, making it harder for doctors to identify and treat illnesses like mesothelioma.