Brown Shipbuilding, founded at the start of World War II, constructed hundreds of ships for the war effort. Many of the components of those ships contained asbestos, which caused exposure in civilian and naval workers and many cases of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. The facility continued operating for decades, causing a lot of harm to workers and veterans.
Brown Shipbuilding History
The Brown brothers, who helped construct the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, were approached in 1941 by the U.S. Navy to start making ships. They started Brown Shipbuilding with an initial investment from the Navy of $9 million.
Starting with submarine chasers, Brown Shipbuilding quickly became one of the top corporations constructing ships for the U.S. military. The company made battleships, destroyer escorts, and more than 254 amphibious assault ships, or LSMs.
After the war ended, the company had constructed more than 350 Navy ships. Todd Shipyards bought Brown Shipbuilding and continued operating the facility through the 1980s.
The shipyard went back to Brown’s original business, Brown and Root. Operations continued there with repairs and construction on barges before being sold in pieces in 2004. Today, the site is the Brown Shipbuilding Industrial Park.
Asbestos Use at Brown Shipbuilding
The shipbuilding industry has a long history of asbestos use. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports that the U.S. Navy used asbestos in many of its materials, parts, and ship construction.
This applies to ships built up to the mid-1970s. This was when the Environmental Protection Agency finally set standards and restrictions for using the harmful mineral.
The Navy and civilian shipbuilding operations used asbestos for many reasons. It is lightweight but also flexible and strong, important properties in ship materials. Perhaps more importantly, asbestos resists heat and protects against fire, a major danger on ships.
Military ships constructed at Brown Shipbuilding used asbestos in the following areas, materials, and parts:
- Engine rooms
- Boiler rooms
- Navigation rooms
- Sleeping quarters
- Mess halls
- Pipe coverings
- Ceiling tiles
Who Was at Risk of Asbestos Exposure at Brown Shipbuilding?
The ships constructed at Brown put Navy service members at risk of asbestos exposure, and anyone who worked on the ships built there could have been exposed. Some of these who were at the greatest risk include:
- Anyone who worked below deck on the ships
- Workers in engine rooms, especially those who had to work with damaged asbestos, lagging, or pipe coverings
- Boiler operators
- Pipe fitters
Also impacted by the asbestos used at Brown were workers in the shipyard, both civilian and military. Anyone involved in constructing, maintaining, or repairing the ships built before the 1980s was likely to have been exposed to asbestos to some degree.
Especially at risk of getting sick were any workers who handled damaged asbestos materials. Workers who specialized in demolishing ships built at Brown faced significant risks from inhaling the disturbed asbestos fibers.
Brown Shipbuilding is just one of many shipyards that made important contributions to the U.S. Navy and the war effort; however, the civilian and military workers who built the ships worked on them and repaired them, and experienced asbestos exposure. Some got sick as a result.
You have rights if you worked in the Brown shipyards or on any of the ships constructed there and later got sick. You have a right to seek justice and compensation. A Texas mesothelioma lawyer can help you take steps toward getting what you deserve for serving and working in dangerous conditions.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster
Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.