Established in Charleston, South Carolina, the Braswell Services Group played a key role in the thriving South Caroling marine industry. Offering a wide range of services, including the construction, repair, and restoration of ships, tugs, barges, and other watercraft, Braswell Services Group served the ships plying the southern Atlantic for many years, and employed hundreds of workers in the Charleston area.
Like many skilled craftsmen and women employed by the demanding shipping industry, the workers at Braswell took great pride in their work and formed the backbone of Braswell’s own success as a major shipping concern.
But like thousands of other shipyard employees throughout the United States who worked at shipyards built prior to the mid 1970s,a the workers at Braswell were exposed every day to the potentially deadly health effects of asbestos.
Until health and safety warnings outlawed the use of asbestos in marine manufacturing in the mid 1970s, asbestos was a common component of literally thousands of materials, parts, and compounds used in the shipbuilding and repair industries. Engine parts, boiler components, valves and valve covers, gaskets, and pump components all contained asbestos, as did floor and ceiling tiles and the ever-present marine coatings, sued for insulation and waterproofing. The high heat environment of marine engines and propulsion systems required insulating material that was both highly resistant to heat, and able to withstand varying degrees of moisture. These materials also had to withstand severe changes in pressure, and remain flexible enough to achieve a solid seal between moving parts.
Marine manufacturers and shipbuilding concerns must have felt as though they had stumbled upon a sort of industrial gold when the supposed benefits of asbestos were revealed. Initially mined in the 19th century, the silica-based mineral soon became highly prized for its high resistance to both heat and corrosion, as well as its flexibility and high tensile strength. These qualities made it seem an ideal material to use in the manufacture of the myriad parts and materials required in the construction of something as complex as a ship or other marine craft.
But by 1978, another truth had been revealed about asbestos: when used in the manufacture or installation process, the fiber releases tiny particles of fine dust which are easily inhaled. Once in the lungs and airway, they can cause a number of potentially deadly health conditions to develop, including asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. If you worked for the Braswell Group, speak to your physician about the possible risks as mesothelioma navy cases are most common. In some individual, the symptoms of malignant mesothelioma can take decades to appear.