Asbestos In South Carolina
For centuries, South Carolina relied on the Atlantic coastline to host commercial and military shipyards. Since the mid-1930s, large vessels used asbestos insulation to protect from heat or fire. Thousands of workers were exposed to asbestos, a toxic mineral mined, manufactured, and sold throughout the 1900s and used in a variety of applications.
The carcinogen was a major industrial source throughout the entire state. For decades, exposure was a problem in power, mining, textile, and shipbuilding and ship repair industries. As vermiculite mining operations in Enoree, SC actively continue, workers are still being exposed to trace amounts of the mineral.
While regulations curbed the production of asbestos, many workers exposed decades ago still risk developing mesothelioma. Meso occurrences happen mostly among workers exposed on ships along the coast of South Carolina.
However, dozens of worksites throughout the state used the mineral throughout their property or as part of production, including:
- Bowater Paper
- Braswell Services Group
- Carolina Shipping Company
- Carotell PaperBoard Corporation
- Charleston Air Force Base
- Charleston Shipbuilding and Drydock Company
- Duke Power Company’s Oconee Nuclear Plant
- International Paper Company
- Naval Weapons Station at Goose Creek
- Parris Island Marine Base
- Reigel Paper in College Spur
- South Carolina Electric & Gas Company
- Southern Kraft Paper Company
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South Carolina Shipyards
Braswell Services Group
For a large portion of the 1900s, Braswell Services Group provided shipbuilding services for both commercial and military use. The shipyard repaired ships of all sizes and employed thousands of workers. Until the 1970s, workers put the mineral in multiple areas of each vessel, including boiler rooms and sleeping quarters. Poor ventilation among ships allowed thousands of servicemen and women and civilians to be exposed to the carcinogen’s fibers. The company currently operates in Charleston, SC, and Jacksonville and Port Canaveral, FL.
Carolina Shipping Company
Carolina Shipping Company began operation in 1927 and provided arrangements and transportation of freight and cargo. The original company also operated several of its own cargo vessels. In 1989, the company sold its vessels, and a new owner, Biehl International, took over. After decades of operation, employees were possibly exposed to the toxin from working on or near ships. Damaged or old ships with poor ventilation often contained airborne asbestos fibers.
Charleston Naval Shipyard
Charleston Naval Shipyard began operations in 1901 as a drydock, building ships for the military. The shipyard served as an important storage and construction facility during both World Wars. During WWII, over 26,000 employees worked for Charleston Naval Shipyard. Up until the 1970s, almost every vessel contained the carcinogen among all Navy ships, resulting in the exposure of the toxin to thousands of employees. According to the Department of Health and Environmental Control, an evaluation done in the area found that two-thirds of cancers affecting the lungs, such as mesothelioma, could have been caused by Charleston Naval Shipyard. The shipyard sold in 1996 to Detyens Shipyard.
William Detyen founded Detyens Shipyards, Inc. in 1962 in Mt. Pleasant, SC. The shipyards sits along the Wando River, where military and civilian workers constructed hundreds of ships. Detyens Shipyard was founded before strict regulations were ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Employees who work or worked for the shipyard still risk developing mesothelioma.
Raybestos-Manhattan and Textile Workers
Raybestos-Manhattan was an asbestos brake manufacturing plant that began operation in North Charleston in 1925. The company also produced clutches, valves, textiles, and insulation, all containing the toxin. The use of the toxin in mechanical applications provided extra strength and fire prevention.
By the 1970s, employees began noticing health issues as a result of exposure. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health conducted air tests. The samples contained levels of asbestos that were 16 times higher than today’s acceptable maximum in workplaces. By then, thousands of employees had already been exposed, but Raybestos-Manhattan continued to deny any knowledge of health problems among employees.
After a name change in 1982, the company stopped making products that contained the carcinogen. In 1986, 41 former workers and surviving family members filed a lawsuit against Raybestos-Manhattan and its asbestos suppliers. The court dismissed the claim after officials found no evidence of raw asbestos shipped to Raybestos-Manhattan.
Vermiculite Mining and Processing
Several geographical locations throughout northwest South Carolina contain vermiculite, a natural mineral mined and manufactured into soil conditioner, packing material, animal feed, and in automotive or construction parts. Vermiculite ore is not dangerous but it can contain traces of asbestos.
In the United States, South Carolina is the largest producer of vermiculite. Two predominant mining sites, Enoree district, and Patterson Vermiculite Company, run by W.R. Grace, led the state in vermiculite production. Employees often unknowingly came into contact with airborne fibers, risking their health. Residents in the area may have also come into contact with airborne fibers.
Filing a Claim In South Carolina
Recent restrictions from South Carolina lawmakers have made it more difficult for workers to file asbestos claims, in spite of the state’s asbestos-related deaths. Under the new restrictions, South Carolina residents must be able to provide specific medical information about their disease and exposure to the carcinogen.
Most mesothelioma and asbestos lawyers are specialized in finding this information for their clients. If you’re a South Carolina asbestos victim, fill out our free legal evaluation to connect with experienced lawyers.