War-time shipwright exposed to asbestos never new it was harmful to his
In recent news, a shipwright who had worked alongside an asbestos mixing
operation on docks in the
1940s, has died of lung cancer.
The Bronx-bred New Yorker was 75.
The shipwright reportedly obtained his employment at the docks immediately
after high school.
Despite the fact that he did not actually process asbestos, he was exposed to
it as it was mixed by hand by others in close proximity to him.
According to a local newspaper, he retired in 1985 and had been healthy until
just a year ago, when he was diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer.
Many shipwrights were exposed to asbestos, fiberglass, and welding fumes.
While the pipe laggers were the tradesmen that handled the asbestos, a
shipwright might be exposed while setting a bracket or plate next to a pipe and
accidentally hit the pipe and dislodge some asbestos, for example.
Exposure to asbestos was also possible where there were steam lines from the
high-pressure steam to other units
like a winch or an auxiliary motor.
The shipwrights were the cream of the journeymen crop. The did everything
from outfitting, to establishing the cribbing on the launching gang, to
Many shipwrights worked on the outfitting docks and did ship reconversion.
They also did a lot of work on the forepeak and hawse pipes when not working
Most transporters were converted to passenger ships after the war; there was
a lot of shifting of equipment and pipes. Basically, the ships were gutted and
would be completely revamped.
The shipwrights would do all the woodworking, finish work, and plates. Then,
when everything was in place, it would be insulated, and the pipes would be
The lagging could take six to 10 months, sometimes longer. They were
constantly cutting these sections of asbestos to fit the pipes. Then they would
attach the sections with a paste and wrap it with asbestos wrapping.
"Sometimes the asbestos was so thick you couldn't see five feet in front of
you. It was white and hung in the welding fumes like smog," said one shipwright
who was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Unfortunately, he said, "Nobody ever said it was dangerous. We were bothered
more by the fiberglass and welding fumes than anything. We thought fiberglass
was more dangerous because it was itchy and caused a rash."
How we can help shipwrights and other workers with asbestos-related
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without any regard for the public. If you’d like to hold them accountable for
the harm they have caused you or a loved one, please complete the form on this
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