Based out of Camden, New Jersey, the New York Shipbuilding Corporation was once one of the largest shipbuilding yards for the U.S. Navy. The shipyard played a significant role in building ships used during both world wars, but it came at the cost of asbestos exposure in thousands of workers and veterans.
About New York Shipbuilding Corporation
The New York Shipbuilding Corporation (NYSB) was established in 1899 by Henry G. Morse. Despite its name, Morse chose New Jersey as the shipyard’s home after plans to buy land on Staten Island fell through.
Morse kept the name and found land in the southern area of Camden that he felt would suit the needs of the business.
The business grew quickly, and within its first year of operations, the shipyard had already built its first vessel. By 1917, the shipyard expanded substantially and began constructing luxury liners, aircraft carriers, battleships, barges, and more.
When World War I began, the shipyard was extremely busy, building numerous vessels. It also built Yorkship Village during this time, a community created specifically for NYSB workers.
During World War II, the shipyard expanded its line to build a battleship, Independence-class light carriers, and over ninety landing craft and tanks. NYSB was also responsible for building tenders and seaplane tenders.
The shipyard created submarines following World War II. By the mid-1960s, however, business declined significantly for NYSB. The shipyard eventually closed down in 1967.
Throughout the majority of the time that the shipyard was in business, NYSB relied on asbestos. This, in turn, put thousands of workers at risk of debilitating illnesses.
Many workers eventually developed diseases known to occur after asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a carcinogen that causes malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis, and asbestos-related lung cancer.
Asbestos at New York Shipbuilding Corporation
The boiler shop, power plant, pipe shops, foundries, dry docks, shipways, and more areas around NYSB contained asbestos.
On a daily basis, shipyard workers worked around asbestos for prolonged periods. Quite a few workers worked in cramped engine rooms aboard ships that had asbestos dust permeating everywhere.
This type of asbestos exposure didn’t just happen at NYSB. Almost every shipyard in the U.S. used asbestos before the late 1970s, before regulations on asbestos use set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to one study of asbestos and shipbuilding, “US asbestos use in the Depression year 1932 was 197 million pounds annually. By 1937, it was 633 million. During the World War II years, it averaged 783 million pounds.”
Although the military and manufacturers knew about asbestos dangers well before its use was regulated, the toxic mineral was still used for years.
Manufacturers and other businesses prized asbestos for its resistance to heat and fire, ease of use, and affordability. In addition, asbestos was a big moneymaker for many companies, who chose to turn a blind eye in the name of profit.
However, it was the workers who suffered due to corporate greed. They inhaled asbestos fibers without realizing it. Once inside the body, the tiny fibers attach themselves to the linings of major organs and never let go. They scar the lining and, eventually, cancerous cells and tumors can form.
After asbestos exposure, it generally takes decades before people realize they’ve developed an asbestos illness. By that time, the illness is typically in its latest stages, making the prognosis grim.
New York Shipbuilding Corporation Today
In 1968, NYSB closed down after it didn’t have any additional work orders from the Navy. At the time the shipyard closed, the USS Pogy was being built as NYSB. The vessel was taken to another shipyard, Ingalls Shipbuilding in Mississippi, for completion.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
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