Maryland has a border along the Atlantic Ocean and is home to a handful of shipyards known to have asbestos. Baltimore, Maryland, had a role as a thriving shipyard and steel mill city during and after World War II. The town saw many residents work for power plants, chemical plants and construction companies. These workers performed labor jobs that posed a high risk for asbestos exposure.
Maryland’s Occupations at Risk
Shipyard, construction, steel mill, foundry, and sheet metal workers are among the occupations at risk for asbestos exposure in Maryland.
Occupations at risk include:
- Automobile mechanics
- Chemical plant workers
- Construction workers
- Flooring installers
- Military service personnel
- Power plant workers
- Sheet metal workers
- Shipyard workers
- Steel mill workers
- Tile installers
Job Sites with Known Asbestos Exposure:
- Anchor Packing Company
- Eastern Stainless Steel
- Curtis Bay Shipyard
- Foreign Motors
- Key Highway Shipyard
- Porter Hayden Company
- Bethlehem Steel
- Baltimore Marine Industries
- Fairfield Shipyard
- Maryland Drydock Shipyard
- Patuxent River Naval Air Station
In 1983, Maryland was the first state in the country to pass requirements for abatement or demolition contractors involving asbestos. Training and licensing are part of the standards, which lawmakers have not updated significantly since 1990.
Maryland Shipyards and Asbestos
Shipyards are part of Maryland’s history, but they pose a severe risk of asbestos exposure to workers. Contractors who supplied parts to the U.S. Navy and built vessels used asbestos materials during the World War II era. Boilers and pipes were wrapped with asbestos lagging or covered in asbestos-containing paint to minimize heat. Almost all the insulation on a ship contained asbestos. The Curtis Bay Coast Guard Yard and Maryland Shipbuilding and Drydock are two yards that exposed workers to asbestos.
At the Curtis Bay yard, asbestos was confirmed in Fleet Hall, a barracks constructed with asbestos shingles on its roof. The yard’s salvage lot was an active scrap metal yard since the 1940s and was also used for dumping asbestos debris.
In addition, a burn pit near the salvage lot was active from the late 1940s through 1963. Here, workers disposed of or incinerated used batteries, oil, scrap metal, liquids and asbestos-containing materials. Areas around both sites were used as dumping grounds, and officials feared asbestos materials were disposed of there.
The Curtis Bay Coast Guard Yard was designated a Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2008, although asbestos was a minor part of that designation.
At Maryland Shipbuilding and Drydock, workers who used asbestos-containing parts from Garlock later won lawsuits against the company after they developed asbestos-related illnesses. One plaintiff was Paul J. Wilson, an electrician whose work history included stints at Bethlehem Steel’s Key Highway Shipyard and Maryland Shipbuilding and Drydock.
Maryland Schools and Asbestos
Schools across the country were built with asbestos construction materials such as pipe insulation, floor tiles, glue and drop ceilings. These materials must be monitored and inspected to ensure they are not creating an exposure risk. From time to time, schools must close down for asbestos abatement projects and when asbestos materials are disturbed.
In January 2019, Kenwood High School in Essex, Maryland, closed early when maintenance workers believed they found asbestos-containing materials. The workers found the material in two fire doors that were not inside the classrooms. They closed off the area and evacuated the school as a safety precaution.