Consolidated Steel Shipyard, also known as Consolidated Steel Corporation, built ships for the military in California and Texas. Its heavy use of asbestos, particularly during World War II, left many shipyard workers battling fatal asbestos illnesses.
About Consolidated Steel Corporation
Consolidated Steel Corporation was both a steel and shipbuilding business. It formed in 1929 after Baker Iron Works, Llewellyn Iron Works, and Union Iron Works merged their operations.
It started in Long Beach, California, but in 1941, a new shipyard, funded by United States Maritime Commission (MARCOM), was built in Wilmington, California. The shipyard was known as an “emergency yard” where it worked on and delivered vessels for the U.S. Navy.
Consolidated Steel Corporation also opened a fabrication plant in Orange, Texas, in 1941. Within a year of opening its doors in Texas, workers started constructing ships. The Orange shipyard employed around 20,000 workers as production needs started to increase.
At its peak, more than 30,000 people worked at the shipyards. The shipyards, however, only lasted until 1945, but during the time of its operations, many workers continuously faced asbestos exposure without ever knowing it at the time.
Consolidated Steel Corporation and Asbestos
Insulation installers faced the highest risk of asbestos exposure and developing an asbestos-related illness. Still, many other workers were also at risk, such as pipefitters, construction workers, general laborers, electricians, carpenters, and more.
Asbestos was once used everywhere at both of the shipyard’s locations. From insulation, pipes, wiring, machinery, construction materials, and more, it was hard to find materials at the shipyard that did not contain the toxic asbestos.
Insulation was the main asbestos-containing product that caused the most asbestos exposure at Consolidated Steel. Asbestos-filled insulation was used all over the shipyard, including in pipes and walls, construction materials, wiring, machinery, equipment, and much more.
After a while, many of the shipyard employees and contractors started developing harmful diseases associated with asbestos exposure, such as malignant mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer.
Although odorless, microscopic, and undetectable by the human eye, asbestos fibers are the reasons for thousands upon thousands of deaths. The tiny fibers are easily breathed in, and once inside the body, it’s almost impossible to dispel them all.
As time goes by, these tiny fibers create havoc inside the body. They lodge onto the linings of major organs and create scarring. The scarring eventually turns into cancerous cells and tumors.
Most shipyard workers who sought justice filed lawsuits against the manufacturers who sold and shipped asbestos materials to the shipyards.
Asbestos manufacturer Johns Manville was one of many asbestos suppliers to the shipyard. Johns Manville denied its responsibility initially. The company claimed ignorance of the dangers of asbestos.
A company representative even cited scientific data that stated there wasn’t enough provable information that showed asbestos was harmful. The data, of course, was completely incorrect.
Eventually, Johns Manville lost thousands of cases against people who developed diseases after exposure to the company’s products. Johns Manville ended up filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The business later created an asbestos trust fund to handle all pending and future cases.
Consolidated Steel Shipyard Today
The Consolidated Steel Shipyards shut down after the war. The Orange, Texas location converted to a fabrication facility as part of U.S. Steel and eventually reverted back to a shipyard as part of Signal International. Today it is West Orange Shipyard.
Today, the Port of Los Angeles container terminal (TraPac) is situated where the Wilmington shipyard once was.
Consolidated Steel Corporation is a memory to some and a complete nightmare to others. The damage that the asbestos at the business caused left many people fighting for their lives. Some of the former workers have since passed away from asbestos diseases.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.