Merchant Marine Seaman and Exposure to Asbestos
Since asbestos was very commonly used to construct ships until the late 1970s, merchant marine seamen are at risk of developing mesothelioma, which is an asbestos-related cancer. The seaman will have a higher risk the longer they were onboard a ship that had asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos was commonly used until the late 1970s on naval ships, cargo ships, freighters and tankers. It was also used as insulation for boilers, and as an insulation wrap for steam pipes and in gaskets used for valves, machinery and pipes. When an asbestos wrap gets older, it becomes very fragile and can release asbestos fibers into the air, where it can linger for several days, allowing it time to be inhaled by merchant marine seamen.
Respiratory Diseases and Merchant Marine Seaman
There are several severe respiratory diseases that are caused by asbestos, and merchant marine seamen are at risk for developing these diseases because of their proximity to asbestos while at work. Asbestosis is a scarring of the lungs that causes breathing problems, and this is a disease that asbestos can cause. Lung cancer and mesothelioma are also caused by inhaling asbestos fibers.
Merchant marine seamen or other types of seafarers may have served on a ship that contained chrysotile asbestos products, crocidolite asbestos or amosite asbestos if they have been working on ships for a long time. Mesothelioma takes many years before its symptoms are noticeable, so mariners who were exposed to asbestos in the 1960s or 1970s may only now be experiencing symptoms.