At the turn of the 20th century, the city of Galveston, Tex., was thriving as a shipbuilding and repair site. Located on the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the city was home to numerous marine facilities, including the Kane Shipbuilding Company, which was established in the early 1900s.
The Kane Shipbuilding Company began as a relatively small yard, serving a few clients in the commercial shipping industry. But with the onset of World War II, the shipyard underwent a period of dramatic growth. As the United States Navy’s need for ships grew exponentially, shipbuilding and repair facilities from across the nation were asked to devote themselves to the war effort. Kane Shipbuilding was one of the facilities that rose to meet the need, building numerous large vessels for both the Navy and the United States Coast Guard.
The growth initiated a hiring surge, and offered expanded employment opportunities for men and women of the Galveston area.
Prior to the mid 1970s, Kane shared a common characteristic with other shipyards existing at the same time: much of the maerials and pars used in the construction and repair of marine craft at the facility were made from asbestos, and the workers who used these materials, or were in the area where construction or repairs were being made, risked their health through regular exposure to the mineral.
The use of asbestos was common in many industries, including construction of ships and other water craft. The reasons were simple: asbestos was cheap, readily available, and its unique profile made it adapt well to a wide variety of applications. In the case of the shipping industry, the material’s resistance to high heat and corrosion meant that it could withstand the effects of varying temperatures and moisture levels which are a part of the maritime environment. Asbestos fibers are also flexible and strong, and appear ideal for applications such as gaskets and valve covers which require those attributes.
But as we know now, asbestos also poses serious, and often deadly, consequences to those whoa re exposed to its fibers. During manufacturing, construction, and repair routines, asbestos regularly releases tiny fibers into the area, creating a dust which is easily inhaled and ingested. Once in the lungs, asbestos can cause potentially fatal complications, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
If you worked for the Kane Shipbuilding Company, speak to your doctor about your possible risks of exposure to asbestos as mesothelioma navy cases are most common. There is no cure, but symptoms of malignant mesothelioma may be able to be temporarily treated.