World War II represents a significant era in the history of the United States. As battles raged overseas, the production of ships, aircraft, and other supplies to help the war effort were on the increase.
Those sacrifices, whether domestically or overseas, of the men and women who composed “The Greatest Generation” did not end when soldiers laid down their arms. Those necessities made from durable, fire-resistant minerals resulted in multiple diagnoses of mesothelioma and other forms of cancer.
Service, Then Illness
Decades later, a second sacrifice became a harsh reality, and new, more personal battles begun for shipbuilders and other shipyard workers. World War 2 veterans who had already received recognition found themselves with an unwanted designation: the largest occupation-based demographic impacted by mesothelioma.
A list compiled by researchers at Georgetown and Duke pathology departments documented the catastrophic consequences of asbestos exposure. Twelve occupations were ranked for the risk of contracting mesothelioma.
The building of ships was first with 289 cases out of the nearly 1,445 examined, approximately 40 percent higher than the next group on the list, members of the U.S. Navy.
The job duties of longshoremen involved loading and unloading floorboards, cement mixtures, and other items containing asbestos. Some likely had the responsibility of carrying actual raw asbestos on and off the vessels, utterly unaware of any dangers that would come from exposure.
Even after the war, shipyards remained operational, tragically exposing more and more dedicated and hardworking people.
Not all that long ago, asbestos was considered a vital component of U.S. industrialism dominance. The mineral provided protection from fires and remained durable for decades. Today, exposure to those fibers has tragic, if not fatal, consequences for those who served their country unselfishly.