Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. made up entirely of an island chain. Located in the Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii was the 50th and last state admitted into the Union. Although it is not connected to the U.S. mainland except by sea and air links, the population of the Aloha State nevertheless is not immune to the dangers of asbestos exposure.
If you have mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be eligible to receive a large amount of compensation. Fill out our form to get a free Financial Compensation Packet. You’ll learn about the top mesothelioma lawyers in your area, how to get paid in 90 days, how to file a claim for the asbestos trust funds, and more.
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Honululu, Pearl City, East Honolulu, Hilo, Kailua Cdp, Waipahu, Kaneohe, Mililani Town, Kahului, Ewa, Gentry, Kihei, Schofield, Barracks, Mililani, Mauka, Makakilo, Wahiawa, Wailuku, Kapolei, Royal Kunia, Ewa Beach, Halawa, Waimalu, Kailua Cdp, Waianae, Nanakuli, Waipio, Lahaina, Kapaa, Kaneohe Station, Kalaoa, Hawaiian Paradise Park, Waihee-Waiehu, Ocean Pointe, Waimea Cdp, Aiea, Holualoa, Ahuimanu, Maili, Haiku-Pauwela, Makaha, Pukalani, Waikele, Hickam Housing, Ewa Villages, Lihue, Kula, Makawao, Waikoloa Village, Napili-Honokowai, West Loch Estate, Wailea, Waimanalo, Laie, Pupukea, Whitmore Village, Waipio Acres, Wailua, Homesteads, Kahaluu, Heeia, Hawaiian Beaches, Waimanalo Beach, Kalaheo, Captain Cook, Kahaluu-Keauhou, Haleiwa, Hawaiian Ocean View, Waialua, Hanamaulu, Hauula, Puhi, Iroquois Point, Waikapu, Ainaloa, Lanai City, Kilauea, Kaunakakai, Orchidlands Estates, Kekaha, Mountain View, Honokaa, Hanapepe, Eleele, Honaunau-Napoopoo, Honalo, Volcano, Wailua, Keaau, Kahuku, Paia, Wheeler AFB, Koloa, Princeville, Anahola, Lawai, Hawaiian Acres, Kealakekua, Maunawili, Kualapuu, Ko Olina, Waimea Cdp, Pepeekeo, and more.
History of Asbestos in Hawaii
Although the main islands that make up the state have been inhabited since nomadic Polynesians first landed on the Big Island area of Hawaii 1,500 years ago, asbestos exposure and its related diseases are modern-day problems. Since U.S. whalers, seamen, and missionaries began arriving in the archipelago in the 1820s, American culture and technology were transplanted in Hawaii.
Thus, when industry and government agencies used asbestos products in the mainland, American enterprises, territorial authorities, and military installations in Hawaii also used them. Since Hawaii has no naturally-occurring asbestos deposits, the state’s tally of 135 mesothelioma deaths is connected to imports of asbestos from the mainland, especially vermiculite from the mines in Libby, Montana.
Before and after Hawaii’s annexation by the U.S. in 1898, American businesses were introducing modern technology and industry to the islands. The Americanization of the Hawaiian Territory coincided with the widespread use of asbestos in manufacturing and power generation. Almost every industrial facility on the eight main islands of Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe. Maui, and Hawaii was built with varying amounts of asbestos.
Because Hawaii is strategically located halfway between the U.S. West Coast and Japan, the Army and Navy set up several military bases at the start of the 20th Century. Naval Station Pearl Harbor, now known as Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, began as a Navy coaling station and anchorage in 1899.
By 1940, a modernized and expanded Pearl Harbor was transformed into the main base of the Pacific Fleet, the Navy’s largest grouping of warships and fleet auxiliaries. Many of the base’s facilities, including the oil tank farm, the shipyard, the air station on Ford Island, and the Pacific Fleet headquarters, all were built with construction materials containing asbestos.
To protect Pearl Harbor and the ships berthed there, the Army built various forts and air bases, including Schofield Barracks, Ft. Shafter, and Wheeler and Hickam Fields. These bases were also built with construction materials which included asbestos.
As was customary for much of the late 19th Century and most of the 20th, asbestos was used as a fire retardant and as insulation due to its ability to withstand fire and heat. Unfortunately, the minerals’ fibers can be easily inhaled or swallowed if they’re disturbed and stirred into the environment. Over time, fibers that are lodged in the tissues of the lungs or the abdominal cavity cause several asbestos-related diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
The Pervasiveness of Asbestos in Hawaii
Since asbestos was incorporated into any mechanism, building, or product which needed to resist friction-related heat or fire and high temperatures in general, almost every building erected in Hawaii between 1898 and 1980 contains asbestos. Pineapple processing plants, auto repair shops, airports, shipyards, power plants, government buildings, private homes, and schools.
The pervasive presence of asbestos in the state can be summed up by one statistic. According to the Honolulu Star Bulletin, in Pearl Harbor-Hickam alone, over 10,000 workers at the Naval Shipyard have been exposed to asbestos since the Second World War.
In addition, many workers in the construction, power generating, food processing, and manufacturing fields have also been exposed to asbestos. Though only 5% of the Hawaii workforce exposed to asbestos has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, the asbestos industry suppressed data that linked asbestos to workers’ illnesses and deaths as early as the 1920s.
The site of the now-closed Vermiculite of Hawaii plant in Honolulu has been evaluated by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry (ATSDR) as being contaminated by asbestos. From 1954 to 1983, this facility processed vermiculite from Libby, Montana, which contained high amounts of asbestos.
The ATSDR report informs former workers and residents of nearby neighborhoods that they may have been exposed to dangerous levels of exposure during Vermiculite of Hawaii’s 30-year-long operational existence.
Despite the state’s asbestos abatement efforts, Hawaii’s aging school facilities still have large amounts of asbestos on campuses that were built as recently as 40 years ago. In December of 2004, for instance, asbestos was found in the outside paintwork of Honolulu’s King Intermediate School. Two permanent classroom buildings and one portable facility were shut down, according to the Honolulu Advertiser. They were cleaned during the winter holiday break to make sure no students were exposed to asbestos dust.
Prominent Job Sites Known to Have Asbestos Exposure
- Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyards
- Ford Island Naval Air Station
- Hickam Air Force Base
- Schofield Army Barracks
- Vermiculite of Hawaii asbestos processing plant
- Pearl Harbor Oil Tank Farm
- Maui Electric Company
- Olokele Sugar Company
Asbestos Laws in Hawaii
Under Title 11, Chapter 501, of the Hawaii Department of Health’s Administrative Rules, the state of Hawaii mandates several regulations regarding handling, working around, and removing asbestos, known as asbestos abatement. These regulations are in place to protect the residents of Hawaii from the dangerous fibers of asbestos:
- Owners and operators of asbestos mills in Hawaii must ensure that no emissions are ejected out of the mills and into the air. In addition, they must inspect the air ducts and clean the air devices and equipment at least once a week.
- Roadways made with asbestos are strictly prohibited in Hawaii, including tailings or waste materials. Tailings containing asbestos are only acceptable if they are encapsulated into the roadway’s asphalt.
- Any manufacturer that can still legally use asbestos must ensure no emissions are leaked from the building. In addition, routine maintenance and cleaning on all equipment and materials is required.
- Anyone planning to demolish or renovate a building or facility that contains asbestos must always adhere to the Title 11, Chapter 501 guidelines of the Hawaii Department of Health’s Administrative Rules.
- Schools that were built with asbestos-containing materials must undergo routine inspections and maintenance, and all records must be sent to the state.
For more information, contact the Hawaii Department of Health’s Administrative Department.
Hawaii Statute of Limitations
In order to file an asbestos-related lawsuit in Hawaii, you must do so within that state’s statute of limitations, which include:
- Two years from the diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease
- Two years from the time of the victim’s death for wrongful death lawsuits
Getting Legal Help in Hawaii
Remember, if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may qualify for significant compensation. Get our free Financial Compensation Packet for information on the top mesothelioma and asbestos lawyers in your area. For questions and assistance, feel free to contact us at 800-793-4540.