Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure in Alaska
If you live in the state of Alaska and have worked there for significant amount of time, there is a chance that you were exposed to asbestos in the workplace. Prolonged exposure to asbestos can lead to serious health problems including mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer and other non-malignant lung impairments.
To assist people who live in Alaska, we have provided statistics about asbestos and mesothelioma in Alaska. We have also included descriptions of the industries and lists of cities, towns and specific job sites in Alaska where asbestos exposure is likely to have occurred. Treatment options and recent news about asbestos and mesothelioma in Alaska are also provided.
Mesothelioma and Asbestos Statistics in Alaska
80 Alaskan residents died of mesothelioma from 1999 – 2015
- Alaska has a high mesothelioma death rate of about 21 people per million each year (Source: CDC)
- Anchorage Borough in particular faces high mesothelioma rates, ranking among the top 50 counties in the U.S. with a mesothelioma death rate of about 20 per million (Source: CDC)
- Naturally occurring asbestos is common throughout Alaska, and can be found in the Panhandle region, along the Yukon River, and around the Kobuk Valley National Park and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (Source: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)
Asbestos Industry in Alaska
While asbestos is fairly common naturally in the Alaskan environment, the mineral was also widely used in a variety of industries in the state.
Various manufacturers, like pulp mills that convert wood chips into a fiber board to be made into paper, use asbestos in their processes because of its heat resistance. Some of these operations in Alaska, like the Ketchikan Pulp Company, potentially exposed workers to the toxin.
Due to the high amount of natural asbestos in Alaska, requests for gravel became quite complicated. Much of the gravel would contain some amount of natural asbestos, which put locations throughout the state at risk for contamination. The growing demand led to Alaska developing laws to regulate the use of natural asbestos.
A lot of equipment in power plants has been created with asbestos-containing materials because of the risk for heat damage, fires, or combustion. Plants in Alaska, such as Beluga Power Station and the University of Alaska Power Plant, put workers at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.
Companies like Arco Chemical Company and Tesoro Alaska Company used asbestos throughout the many facets of operation. Studies have shown an unusually high rate of pleural mesothelioma among oil refinery workers.
With the largest coastline in the United States, Alaska had a need for ship repair and shipbuilding. At shipyards like Seward’s Marine Industrial Center, workers likely were exposed to asbestos often because of its heavy usage on ships.
Veterans, especially those in the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, are at higher risk of mesothelioma because of the wide asbestos use in all branches of the military. In Alaska, veterans risked exposure at bases like Fort Richardson and the Kodiak Naval Station.
Alaska Shipyards and Superfund Sites
Alaska has two shipyards and ten Superfund sites throughout the state, including one where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) noted asbestos concerns among other environmental issues. Alaska also had a few shipyards, known to heavily use asbestos,that put many workers at risk.
Arctic Surplus (Fairbanks)
The Arctic Surplus Salvage Yard was a private 24-acre property that accepted various military equipment, asbestos insulation, and other hazardous chemicals. It had previously been owned by the Department of Defense, but was privately operated by salvage companies from the 1950s-1980s. In 1988, the ADEC conducted an inspection and found piles of bulk asbestos, significant levels of metal in the soil, and thousands of drums of liquid waste. Arctic Surplus was added to the Superfund list in 1990. Cleanup of the site entailed the removal of 22,000 pounds of asbestos, lead battery casings, and thousands of drums of waste. After a long cleanup effort and continued safety evaluations, the site was taken off the Superfund List in 2006.
Seward Marine Industrial Center
The Seward Marine Industrial Center, located on the eastern side of Resurrection Bay, encompasses 15 square miles along the coast. Over the years, it has grown into a full-service shipyard. The center allows for storage of ships of all sizes, as well as maintenance and repair. Because asbestos was so widely used on ships, whether for insulation or in sealing compounds, shipyard workers face a high risk of asbestos exposure. Many times, repair or maintenance can involve sanding down or disturbing these asbestos materials in some way, making the dangerous fibers become airborne.
Seward Ship’s Drydock
Seward Ship’s Drydock opened in 1973 primarily as a service center for ships, helping with maintenance and repair. Asbestos was a common material used on ships through the 1970s, putting all the shipyard workers at great risk of exposure as they worked. In the 1980s, this small shipyard expanded up the coast to develop into the full service Seward Marine Industrial Center, which still operates today.
Alaska Cities Where Asbestos Exposure Occurred
Asbestos exposure on the job is known to have occurred in the following Alaska cities. Prolonged asbestos exposure can cause the terminal cancer mesothelioma as well as other asbestos-related diseases. Click on any city below to view a complete list of commercial, military and residential job sites where asbestos exposure occurred in that city.
Asbestos Risks at Other Alaska Work Sites
Beyond the major cities and towns in Alaska, asbestos exposure has also occurred at a number of other job sites. Select a town to see the list of its work sites where asbestos exposure occurred. Asbestos exposure at any one of the sites revealed could put a worker at risk to develop pleural mesothelioma.
Author: Linda Molinari
Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer AllianceRead about Linda
Reviewer: Jennifer R. Lucarelli
Lawyer for Mesothelioma Victims and Their FamiliesRead about Jennifer
Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Environmental Cleanup, Fiscal Year 2003 Request, Ref. No. 35810.
Alaska Statutes, Title 18, Chapter 31: "Asbestos."
Environmental Protection Agency. "Washington Company, Manager Admit Illegal Asbestos Removal in Alaska." Environmental Protection Agency, 22 February 2001.
Geological Research, Analyses and Services Programs. "Naturally Occurring Asbestos Locations in the Contiguous U.S. and Alaska." Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 25 May 2007.
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/noa/usamap.pdf (accessed 23 August 2010).