Mesothelioma in Shipyard Workers

Asbestos was widely used for insulation and fireproofing on ships, but today we know that inhaling it can lead to severe health issues, including mesothelioma. Shipyard workers who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a cancer that affects the lungs and abdomen, may have a legal right to compensation.

Experienced mesothelioma attorneys can help you and your loved ones understand your options and file mesothelioma claims.

The Link Between Shipyard Asbestos and Disease

shipyard worker makes welding repairs

Asbestos fibers, when inhaled or ingested, can become lodged in the body’s tissues, causing inflammation and cellular damage over time. Asbestos exposure is directly linked to mesothelioma as well as other diseases, including asbestosis and lung cancer.

Many occupations have a high risk of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, including Navy service members. The link between mesothelioma and shipyard workers has also been studied in detail.

One study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)1 stated that shipbuilding and repairing had the highest mortality rate from malignant mesothelioma of the occupations studied. Another found a link between employment at a Coast Guard shipyard and cancer, including mesothelioma.2 Researchers believe the heavy use of asbestos and the small, confined areas on ships could result in higher exposure to the fibers.

How Shipyard Asbestos Exposure Occurs

Large ships require a lot of power to travel long distances, and generating that power also generates heat. Asbestos was used extensively for insulation and fireproofing on ships, including on boilers, furnaces, incinerators, pipes and wiring, until its health risks became widely recognized.

Even today, asbestos in shipyards can be released into the air during the construction, maintenance and decommissioning of ships, posing a significant health risk to workers.

Asbestos Products

Asbestos is a versatile mineral that could be pre-mixed into building materials, woven into fabrics or sprayed directly onto ship parts. Some of the most common products with asbestos in shipyards include:

  • Adhesives
  • Bedding
  • Boilers
  • Brake linings
  • Brake pads
  • Cables
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Cement
  • Electrical wiring
  • Fireproof blankets
  • Floor tiles
  • Gaskets
  • Hydraulic assemblies
  • Insulation
  • Paint
  • Paneling
  • Pipes
  • Pumps
  • Rope
  • Sails
  • Sealants
  • Spray-on applications
  • Valves

Working with these products directly posed the greatest hazard, but shipyard workers can also be exposed when the materials begin to break down and release dust into the air.

Shipbuilding and Repair

Asbestos is no longer used in shipbuilding due to its health risks, but mesothelioma in shipyard workers can take decades to develop after exposure. This means many shipyard workers exposed years ago are only now experiencing the effects, underscoring the long-term dangers of asbestos.

Shipbuilding and repair workers at the highest risk include:

  • Boiler makers
  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • Engine fitters
  • Joiners
  • Laggers (insulators)
  • Mechanics
  • Painters
  • Pipefitters
  • Plumbers
  • Steamfitters
  • Steelworkers
  • Welders

Renovation and Salvage Work

Despite regulatory efforts to reduce asbestos use, many older ships still contain asbestos materials, making workplace exposure an ongoing concern for shipyard workers. As ships that contain asbestos age, they’re often renovated or stripped for parts, which could expose shipyard workers to the dangerous fibers. For example, there is still asbestos on Navy ships that can be released during repairs and renovation.

In addition, the process of salvaging an older ship and its cargo after an accident can release asbestos fibers. This ongoing risk highlights the importance of strict safety protocols, protective equipment and proper training to prevent asbestos exposure in shipyard workers handling older vessels.

Worksites and Manufacturers Connected to Shipyard Asbestos Exposure

If you or your loved one worked in a shipyard before the risks of asbestos were well-known, you may have been exposed. Asbestos was widely used in ships, shipyards and even the packing materials used to transport cargo. Today, the link between asbestos, mesothelioma and shipyard workers is well-established.

Asbestos in Shipyards

When asbestos use was most popular, nearly every shipyard in the United States would have used it in its shipbuilding materials. At Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney and Meisenkothen (ELSM), we’ve connected shipyard asbestos with mesothelioma in several shipbuilding locations, including:

  • Bellinger Shipyard – Jacksonville, FL
  • Bethlehem Steel Shipyard – Beaumont, TX
  • Bethlehem Steel Fairfield Shipyard – Baltimore, MD
  • Bethlehem Steel Key Highway Shipyard – Baltimore, MD
  • Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point Shipyard – Baltimore, MD
  • Bravo Shipyard – Wilmington, DE
  • Charleston Shipbuilding & Drydock Company – Charleston, SC
  • Curtis Bay Shipyard – Baltimore, MD
  • Defoe Shipbuilding Corporation – Bay City, MI
  • Detyens Shipyard – Charleston, SC
  • Dravo Shipyard – Wilmington, DE
  • Electric Boat Shipyard – Groton, CT
  • Fore River Shipyard – Quincy, MA
  • Honolulu Shipyard – Honolulu, HI
  • Kaiser Shipyard – Richmond, CA
  • Maryland Dry Dock & Shipbuilding Company – Baltimore, MD
  • North Carolina Shipbuilding Company – Wilmington, DE
  • Tampa Shipyards, Inc. – Tampa, FL
  • Todd Shipyards – Alameda, CA
  • Todd Shipyards – Galveston, TX
  • Todd Shipyards – Houston, TX
  • Todd Shipyards – Seattle, WA

Manufacturers of Asbestos Products

Many industries used asbestos to add durability and heat resistance to products, including shipbuilding. Nearly every part of a ship contained asbestos, and the manufacturers of these products continued to make them even after they knew about the risks. Shipbuilding companies known for asbestos include:

  • 3M
  • American Standard, Inc.
  • Aqua-Chem, Inc.
  • Armstrong World Industries, Inc.
  • Bendix Corp.
  • Bondex International, Inc.
  • Burnham Holdings
  • Crane Co.
  • General Electric Company
  • Ingersoll-Rand
  • Johns Manville
  • Keasbey & Mattison
  • Keene Corporation
  • Kelly-Moore Paint
  • Monsanto
  • National Gypsum Company
  • Owens-Corning Fiberglas
  • Pryor Giggey Co.
  • Sherwin-Williams Paint
  • U.S. Gypsum Company
  • W.R. Grace & Co.

Mesothelioma Compensation for Shipyard Workers

Shipyard workers diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure have several legal options to secure compensation. These options include accessing asbestos trust funds, pursuing mesothelioma lawsuits and filing for workers' compensation. Understanding each type of mesothelioma compensation can help affected workers and their families obtain the financial support they deserve.

Trust Funds

Asbestos trust funds were established by bankrupt asbestos companies to compensate victims of asbestos exposure. Shipyard workers with mesothelioma can file claims against these funds. A lawyer experienced in asbestos litigation can identify the appropriate trusts, gather the necessary documentation and streamline the claims process on your behalf.

Mesothelioma Lawsuits

Shipyard workers may be able to file mesothelioma lawsuits against the manufacturers of the asbestos-containing products used in shipyards. A mesothelioma attorney can fight for you to negotiate settlements for medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Workers’ Compensation

Mesothelioma in shipyard workers most often occurs due to occupational exposure to asbestos. This means that shipyard workers diagnosed with mesothelioma may be eligible for workers' compensation, a state-run insurance program that provides benefits for medical expenses and lost wages. A lawyer can help you understand the law in your state, navigate the claims process and maximize the benefits you receive.

Legal Support for Shipyard Workers

While there is a proven link between mesothelioma and shipyard workers, it’s important to have an experienced mesothelioma law firm, like ELSM, on your side.

We have decades of experience fighting for mesothelioma victims and their families. We’ve won settlements in the millions, including $5.5 million for a shipyard worker in Washington and $3.4 million for a worker in California. Contact us today for a free case evaluation to determine how we can help you.


How much shipyard asbestos exposure is dangerous?

There is no safe level of asbestos exposure, so even minimal asbestos exposure in shipyards can be hazardous. Repeated or prolonged exposure increases the risk of developing serious illnesses like mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Protective measures are essential to minimize exposure risks.

Is asbestos still used in shipbuilding?

Asbestos is no longer used in modern shipbuilding due to its health risks. However, older ships may still contain asbestos materials, posing ongoing exposure risks during maintenance, repairs or decommissioning. Strict safety protocols are necessary when working on these vessels.


  1. Mazurek, J.M., Syamlal, G., et al. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. March 2017, 66(8):214–218. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6608a3.
  2. Krstev, S., Stewart, P., et al. Occupational and Environmental Medicine Sept. 2007(64):651–8. doi: 10.1136/oem.2006.029652.

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