Throughout both World Wars, shipbuilding in the U.S. remained a vital part of producing the vessels needed to fight. However, it was common for workers to be continually exposed to asbestos at these facilities. The Naval Operating Base of Terminal Island is one such facility where workers were constantly handling the dangerous material.
One of the most insidious aspects of diseases related to asbestos exposure is the delayed onset of symptoms of diseases related to this exposure. Only years after working in the shipyards do many employees begin developing the symptoms we now associate with mesothelioma. Sometimes, even decades later, these victims were often misdiagnosed, unaware how their previous exposure had put them at heightened risk of such cancers. Receiving medical treatment at the early onset of the disease is essential for an optimistic prognosis. However, through comprehensive medical examinations, physicians can detect and begin treatment for mesothelioma.
Many employees of the Terminal Island Naval Operating Base didn’t realize that the materials they dealt with were dangerous. Without using protective masks, these workers constantly inhaled asbestos at alarming rates. As ships were built and maintained, the substance was released into the air as dust. When inhaled, the dust becomes trapped within the protective membranes of organs within the chest and abdominal region.
Slowly, the material begins to accumulate within one’s body. Since it cannot rid itself of the substance, over time the fibers irritate the surrounding cells. Once damaged, the cells become cancerous and begin multiplying. Indirect exposure has also been found to impact family members of these workers as well. When workers left work, their clothes were often covered with asbestos, eventually allowing dangerous amounts to settle in the home as well.
Today it is believed that 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma occur each year. The problem with such illnesses is that exposure to asbestos occurred decades before symptoms appear. Most patients are elderly and other lung and respiratory diseases are diagnosed before mesothelioma, leading to a dangerous delay in proper treatment.
Having worked at Terminal Island Naval Operating Base or any other shipbuilding facility before asbestos was outlawed puts individuals at an increased risk of developing mesothelioma. Diagnosing and treating the disease at early onset is essential for receiving the best life expectancy.