We at Mesothelioma Guide published a series of blogs about specific jobs with a higher‑than‑normal risk of mesothelioma. The explanation was simple: They all directly or indirectly involved occupational asbestos exposure.
One of the lesser‑known jobs fitting this is sailors.
The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a detailed explanation of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma among sailors.
“Studies have been conducted of sailors involved in the maintenance, repair, and operation of seagoing vessels,” the report reads. “Most of these studies have shown an excess of asbestos‑associated diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.”
Respiratory Cancer Rates Among Sailors
The report highlighted numerous case studies of sailors and “seamen” with respiratory issues. There were numerous cases of mesothelioma identified.
In one included case study, the United States Public Health Service looked into mortality patterns of merchant seamen. They accounted for nearly 20% of respiratory cancers across eight hospitals. Non‑seamen only accounted for 9.3% of these cancers.
Shipbuilders are near the top of mesothelioma incidence rates. Navy ships and other vessels included asbestos to prevent fires and maintain durability. The people aboard these ships likewise face an asbestos risk.
Sailors aren’t thought of in the same category often, but they face the same concerns.
“Chrysotile and amphibole asbestos were used extensively in ship construction for insulation, joiner bulkhead systems, pipe coverings, boilers, machinery parts, bulkhead panels, and many other uses, and asbestos‑containing ships are still in service,” the report states.
End of Work Day Doesn’t Mean End of Exposure
In fact, sailors might face the highest asbestos risk of all occupations. Why is that?
We answer the question with a question: Which other jobs require the workers to live at the job site? Do construction workers sleep all night next to the building they’re working on?
“Sailors are at high risk of exposure to shipboard asbestos, because unlike shipyard workers and other occupationally exposed groups, sailors both work and live at their worksite,” the report reads.
This nullifies the permissible exposure limits, which are the Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules for “safe” and acceptable at‑work asbestos exposure. The limits are set for an eight‑hour work day, not for a 24‑hour session on a sailboat.
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