Treasure Island Naval Station was built on a man-made island built on the shoals of Yerba Buena Island between 1936 and 1939. The Golden Gate International Exposition celebrated the engineering of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. Part of the project included a terminal building for Pan American Airways and two hangars which visitors to the exhibition could tour. The exhibition was held in 1939 and 1940.
Any plans that Howard Hughes had for his commercial service out of Treasure Island ended when the Navy placed his company under contract and commandeered his planes for the war effort. The deal wasn't all bad, though. The Navy did give him Mills Field (a.k.a. San Francisco International Airport) when congestion from ship traffic got too heavy.
The exhibition buildings were transformed into barracks and training centers. Treasure Island and a portion neighboring Yerba Buena Island became the primary west coast naval training center through which personnel were processed for service in the Pacific.
Nearby Hunters Point Annex, which the Navy purchased from the California Drydock Co. 11 days before Pearl Harbor was bombed, was closely associated with Treasure Island. The shipyard was an active hub for ship and submarine repairs and maintenance. It also served as a naval ordinance-training center.
After the end of the war, Treasure Island continued to serve as a naval training and administrative center until 1993. The Hunters Point Annex had already been closed and leased to the private sector company of Triple-A Shipyard in 1976. Triple-A leased abandoned buildings to small businesses. The Navy terminated its lease with Triple-A in 1987 but was still leasing the buildings as of 2005.
Serious contamination issues have been identified at the Hunters Point Annex site. It is listed as a superfund site with the Environment Protection Agency. Many toxins are present including heavy metals, PCBs, radioactive wastes and asbestos. All of these agents are known carcinogens.
Asbestos is actually ranked as one of the most hazardous compounds affecting health. It was used extensively in the ship building industry for its fire retardant properties. Unfortunately, its use as a building material and insulator has contributed significantly to indoor air pollution.
What makes asbestos a carcinogen is not known, though there are theories. What is known is that individuals that are exposed to asbestos dust in their everyday environment frequently develop cancer of the mesothelium, a special lining on the surface of our internal organs that prevents them from sticking to each other. Because of its specific initial target, the cancer is called mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma, cancer of the lining of the lungs, is the most common.
Asbestosis frequently precedes the development of mesothelioma cancer, though not always. Early warning signs for both conditions are subtle. They include shortness of breath, a dry cough, and fluid in the lungs, insomnia, loss of appetite, and weight loss. If you have these symptoms, make sure that your physician knows about any asbestos exposure you may have had.