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Asbestos At Former Naval Base Highlights Health Risk to Navy Vets, Demolition Workers

Long Beach Naval Shipyard

Demolition work at the former Charleston Naval Base was halted after work safety inspectors found asbestos wrap on steam pipes at the site. Exposure to asbestos causes serious respiratory disease including mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer of the lining of the lungs and abdomen.

Asbestos, a mineral fiber, was widely used in building materials and insulation such as pipe wrap in the decades after World War II. It was used in navy ships, military bases and shipyards such as the Charleston Naval Base, Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York Shipyard and Todd Shipyard. Much asbestos remains in older buildings and houses, posing a health hazard to demolition workers and construction workers during remodeling and demolition projects if the asbestos isn’t handled properly. People who worked in shipyards and served on Navy ships are at elevated risk of developing mesothelioma as a consequence of inhaling asbestos fibers decades ago.

According to The Courier and Post newspaper, South Carolina Health and Environmental Control officials last week visited the work site, a fenced-in yard near the former Charleston Naval Base power plant and found what appeared to be asbestos. They shut down the demolition operation.

The Noisette Company, which currently owns the site, had hired AAA Metal Company to remove obsolete pipes. The company will now need to hire a licensed asbestos abatement contractor to remove asbestos materials and clean up the site.

Since the 1940s, millions of American workers have been exposed to asbestos, according to the National Cancer Institute. The people most likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma are older workers, retired workers or veterans who were exposed to asbestos fibers in the workplace or military service. Mesothelioma typically takes 20 years to 40 years before sufferers notice symptoms such as pain beneath the ribs and difficulty breathing. The cancer often has reached an advanced stage before doctors diagnose it correctly.

Researchers continue to seek more effective treatments for mesothelioma and more accurate diagnostic tools to determine which patients will respond to which treatments,including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

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