Synonymous with the shipbuilding industry is the name Todd. Todd Shipyards are a true transcontinental commercial enterprise. Todd Shipyards began across the country as a small steel business operating out of Brooklyn. Gradually, through the first few decades of the twentieth century, they would emerge as one of the largest franchise of shipyards in the world. Todd Pacific Shipyard's presence in the Puget Sound began in 1916, when Todd purchased the older Seattle Construction and Drydock Company. Todd would eventually sell this yard a few years later and reopen another operation in Commencement Bay beginning in 1918.
Following WWI, the Tacoma, Washington facility at Commencement Bay closed. However, it would reopen in 1939 as the United States braced for another world conflict. Through a partnership with Henry Kaiser and a $15 million renovation grant from the U.S. Maritime Commission, the Tacoma, WA facility became one of the leading vessel production yards during the Second World War. Its three original piers were increased to eight, as production demands of the Navy were not initially possible using the minimal and outdated infrastructure. At its peak, nearly 30,000 people were employed at the Tacoma yard, establishing one of the larger wartime production centers in the Todd Pacific operations.
Despite the commercial genius of the Todd enterprise and men like Henry Kaiser, the root of successful production at all their shipyards was the men and women who labored in them. Just like the brave soldiers who landed in Normandy and fought the last vestiges of European domination in the Battle of the Bulge, these men and women fought a war of their own on American soil. War time required the commitment of not only the military but the American public as well to assist our efforts overseas commercially and personally. Unfortunately, many of these men and women who worked in shipyards and other industries were exposed to dangerous toxins, such as asbestos.
Asbestos was a staple of pre-1975 vessel construction. The insulation qualities of asbestos made it an integral component in all shipyard vessel construction and repair activities. Therefore, workers who labored alongside these materials have been exposed to asbestos in many shipyards. Asbestos was used commonly as insulation and covering for piping, electrical, and other fixtures within ship construction. Those who worked near these materials or actually engaged with these materials are most at risk for the adverse health effects of asbestos exposure. Shipyard employees who worked with these materials prior to the late 1970's or repaired older vessels that may have contained these materials should be aware of this danger and mindful of respiratory symptoms indicative of exposure that can lead to mesothelioma.