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It has been reported that a new analysis of shipyard workers in Baltimore in the 1950’s and 1960’s suggests that exposure to a range of toxic substances has raised their risk for lung cancer, malignant mesothelioma, and early death.
Researchers with the Uniformed Services University in Maryland, The National Cancer Institute, and the US Military Academy in Westpoint, New York have traced the work and health histories of more then 4700 workers employed at the Coast Guard Shipyard in Baltimore between 1950 and 1964.
These workers were reportedly analysed for their exposure to five different types of chemicals including asbestos, the leading cause of malignant mesothelioma.
Using standardised mortality ratios, the research team found that the risk of pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer was raised from the five chemical categories, probably because asbestos was so pervasive in shipyards.
It has been known for a long time that shipyards have been dangerous places to work. For many decades asbestos was used throughout ships, as an insulating material and building material which would resist heat and fire.
It is reported that coast guard workers who helped to build or repair ships in the US, as well as those who spent their lives living on these ships, face a higher lifetime risk of pleural mesothelioma because of their exposure to asbestos dust.
Asbestos is a bio-persistent product, meaning that once it is inhaled, it can be difficult for the lung to expel the toxic fibres. This can cause mesothelioma to be triggered many decades later.
It is also reported that even with modern regulations in place in the US to protect workers from mesothelioma, shipyards can still remain dangerous. Although asbestos is not used in normal ship building these days, workers who are involved in dismantling decommissioned ships could still be at risk of mesothelioma if they accidently breathe in asbestos fibres.
Andrew Stinchcombe at Novum Law comments “this study is yet more proof that those people who worked in shipyards many decades ago are at a higher risk of developing an asbestos related disease, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. It can take many decades for these conditions to develop as a result of asbestos exposure, and this is why we are still seeing many cases arising now in the UK as well as other parts of the World. We have dealt with many compensation claims for workers exposed to asbestos dust at Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth, and it is a sad fact that these incidences of asbestos related disease from such exposure have not yet reached their peak”.