Portland is the hub of Maine’s economy; the state’s largest port is located there, it has the most residents, and it’s 115 miles away from Boston, New England’s largest metro area. Its economy has shifted from heavy industry and fishing to a more diverse mix that includes financial services and telecommunications. Nevertheless, Portland’s long-standing tradition of being a major shipbuilder and port city means it has a connection to asbestos exposure and malignant mesothelioma.
If you or someone you love suffers from mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may qualify for substantial compensation. Fill out our form to receive our free Financial Compensation Packet. Our packet is loaded with information on leading mesothelioma attorneys in Portland, how to file a claim for asbestos trust funds, how to get paid in 90 days, and more.
Portland’s Shipyards, Asbestos, and Mesothelioma
Since its beginnings as part of the Massachusetts Colony and up to the present day, Maine has been associated with shipbuilding. Pines and other trees that grew in its forests were used by the British Navy to build its warships during colonial times.
The U.S. Navy and its mercantile fleet also had many ships built in Portland shipyards, starting with wooden ships in the 18th and 19th Centuries and continuing with ships made of iron and steel in modern times.
Asbestos is a generic term for a group of naturally-occurring minerals that resist fire and high temperatures, have inherent flexibility, and can conduct electricity easily. These properties have been known for centuries, but it was the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century that integrated asbestos into the various industries that shaped modern civilization.
Whether it was used in factories to help protect them from the hazards of fire or as a multi-purpose additive in construction materials, asbestos was mined and sold in the U.S. for many decades.
Asbestos was highly prized for its fire-resistant and insulating properties, thus it was an integral part of the shipbuilding process, especially throughout most of the 20th Century. Every modern vessel, civilian or military, built from the 1890s to the early 1970s, contained asbestos in almost every component or compartment.
Steam pipes, gaskets, wall insulation, and even firefighting suits contained the fibrous minerals because fire at sea was a major concern for ships’ owners, captains, crews.
Asbestos use soared during World War II, when the U.S. built thousands of warships and cargo vessels to conduct a two-ocean war. In South Portland alone, 30,000 men and women built 266 cargo ships for the U.S. and Britain between the years of 1941 and 1945.
The two main shipyards were owned and operated by Todd-Bath Iron and South Portland Shipbuilding. These two companies, which later merged into the New England Shipbuilding Company, closed after the war ended.
Although the Ocean and Liberty ships built in Portland were essential to the Allied war effort, their construction exposed thousands of workers to asbestos fibers. At the time, only a handful of doctors, lawyers, and asbestos industry representatives knew that asbestos caused asbestos cancer, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
The asbestos industry suppressed information gathered in U.S. and British job sites for years. Many unsuspecting shipyard workers inhaled or swallowed asbestos fibers while they worked.
Decades later, many of these workers developed malignant mesothelioma, a rare but fatal cancer in the mesothelium, the lining which protects many of the body’s organs. Mesothelioma is difficult to detect and treat because it takes years, even decades, to fully manifest itself.
Mesothelioma is also hard to diagnose because its symptoms mimic those of other diseases. According to the Environmental Working Group, between 168 to 263 Maine men and women died due to mesothelioma between 1979 and 2004, though the number may actually be higher.
Other Portland Job Sites Affected by Asbestos
Shipbuilding wasn’t the only industry that used asbestos. Every major industry which relied on fire, needed protection from high temperatures, or used electricity in the manufacturing process used asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in all types of facilities.
Paper mills, power stations, chemical plants, oil storage tanks, pipelines, public buildings, rail yards, airports, and dockyards built from 1900 till the mid-1970s contained ACMs in their building materials.
Since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified asbestos as a carcinogen in the early 1970s, mining and use of the fibrous minerals decreased in the U.S. Every state in the Union, including Maine, now has strict asbestos-abatement regulations that cover the handling and disposal of ACMs.
A Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulation explicitly stipulates that any piece of material made with asbestos larger than 3 feet (either square or linear) can only be removed or repaired by licensed professionals. Any exception to this rule must come from DEP officials.
Although asbestos use is now greatly reduced and abatement programs help keep new exposures down, there are many job sites in the Portland area where workers may have been exposed in the past:
- New England Shipbuilding Company (Todd Iron) East Yard
- New England Shipbuilding Company (South Portland) West Yard
- Wyman Power Station in Yarmouth
- Cape Station Power Generator in South Portland
- Boston & Maine (B&M) Railroad Yard in Portland
- Portland Transportation Center
- Randall and McAllister Coal Company
- Maine Central Railroad Yard in South Portland
Mesothelioma Treatment in Portland
MaineHealth Medical Center in Portland is home to the Maine Medical Cancer Institute, the largest cancer treatment facility in the state. Its staff of doctors, surgeons, and oncologists provides cancer treatments of all types which meets national guidelines. The Cancer Institute is also an accredited teaching cancer hospital vetted by the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons.
The major physician practice which specializes in cancers of the chest and abdominal areas is the Chest Medicine Associates (CMA). This group is made up by 12 surgeons and oncologists whose focus extends from respiratory diseases such as asthma to asbestos-related lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma.
The entire team is trained in critical care medicine. Its members are either board certified in this discipline or are board eligible and must be certified within two years of being employed by CMA.
Legal Assistance in Portland
As previously mentioned, if you’ve been exposed to asbestos and suffer from mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be entitled to compensatory damages. Remember to fill out our form to get your free Financial Compensation Packet, with information on leading asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers in your area. For questions and assistance, feel free to contact us at 800-793-4540.