What’s the only thing worse than asbestos?


-Fibres (6)


Asbestos ·

noun · as-ˈbes-təs

any of several minerals (such as chrysotile) that readily separate into long flexible fibers, that cause asbestosis and have been implicated as causes of certain cancers, and that have been used especially formerly as fireproof insulating materials.


Navy Veterans run the highest risk among any group of veterans for asbestos related diseases. Naval ships used asbestos in their equipment and in the ships themselves until it was outlawed in 1975.


did you knoW?

Ancient Roman scholar Pliny the Younger (61-112 AD) wrote that slaves who mined and worked with asbestos became ill, though it would be nearly 2,000 years before scientists discovered the cause of this mysterious illness.


Most buildings built prior to the 1980s were likely built with some asbestos-containing materials in the ceiling, floor tiles, roof, siding, and insulation of pipes, boilers, ducts and fireplaces.

Asbestos is a known carcinogen and is the only known cause of mesothelioma. This serious cancer is caused by breathing in or ingesting asbestos fibers, which become lodged in the thin membrane that lines and encases the lungs and abdominal cavity.

According to the EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services, there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.

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The upper Clyde Shipyards:

A Brief history

The upper Clyde Shipyards:

A Brief history



Shipping on the River Clyde

Founded on the Clyde River near Glasgow, Scotland by the Scott family in 1711, the Upper Clyde Shipyards dominated the shipbuilding industry in the UK through the second world war. In the last decades of the nineteenth century, Clyde shipyards produced roughly one-third of British output, launching an estimated 25,000 naval, merchant and passenger ships.


The End of WWII

The end of the second world war was a joyous day for most, but for the shipbuilding industry-- particularly the companies on the Clyde River—it saw the rise of outsourcing to countries in Asia. Families and businesses dependent on the shipyard income fell on hard times as the industry in the UK began to decline during the 1950s and 1960s.


UCS is Founded

In response to the economic crisis caused by this decline, the government of the UK under Tony Benn, Technology minister of the Labour party, formed the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (or UCS)—an organization that brought together Fairfields, Stephens, Connels, Yarrow and John Brown shipyards. UCS was granted a loan of £5.5m and a workforce of 13,000.


The Election of Ted Heath

Edward (Ted) Heath is elected Prime Minister of the UK where he serves from 1970-1974. He wins on a platform of being “tough on pay and tough on trade unions.” Despite Heath’s working-class origins, his terms saw numerous strikes, repeated power cuts, a three-day working week and a pay freeze.


UCS is Dissolved

Unable to sustain themselves on the government grant, UCS asked for another loan. Heath refused, declaring his government wouldn’t support “lame duck industries” like the shipyards, even though the yards had plentiful orders for new ships and a profit was forecasted for the next fiscal year. Facing bankruptcy, UCS entered liquidation in June of 1971, putting the livelihoods of nearly 6,000 families at risk.


The Work-In

With their jobs in jeopardy, UCS’s workforce took action. In lieu of a massive strike, Shop Steward (labor union representative) Jimmy Reid led what was a called a “work-in.” Rather than refuse to work, the UCS shipbuilders continued with their normal day’s labor to prove that not only was the shipping industry still viable and necessary, but that its employees were willing to work hard. The work-in gained international attention outspoken public support from celebrities such as John Lennon and Comedian Billy Connolly.



In a famous speech, Reid cautioned his fellow workers, “'there will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying [drinking] because the world is watching us.”


Worker Power

The pressure of the favorable attention towards the cause Jimmy Reid and the UCS fought for was enough to force Heath to cave. In February of 1972, a full eight months after the beginning of the work-in, the Tory-led government restructured UCS into two new companies: Govan Shipbuilders (formerly Fairfields) and Scotstoun Marine Ltd (formerly Connells). The workers' persistence and collaboration rescued the entire industry from collapse. 


Rebuilding Shipbuilding

As of 2012, two major shipyards on the Upper Clyde River (the former Yarrow and Fairfields yards) remain in operation. BAE Systems Surface Ships, owned by the defense contractor BAE Systems, focuses primarily on the design and construction of technologically advanced warships for the Royal Navy and other navies around the world.

Asbestos, Scotland & Shipping:

Tying it together



Unfortunately, the link between asbestos and lung cancer-- specifically mesothelioma-- was not discovered until 1934. By that time, the use of asbestos was already widespread in many industries, including shipbuilding in Scotland and the rest of the UK.


 In 1967 a victim of asbestos poisoning filed a claim against the government of Great Britain for personal injury due to a workplace hazard and the claim was upheld in court. The Asbestos Regulations of 1969 followed shortly after, which began to phase out use of the hazardous material. However—many proprietors who stood to lose money from finding an alternative to asbestos in their shipyards in a timely manner chose instead to push the problem off until it was too late. They chose to rely on government payouts for wrongful death rather than provide safer working conditions for their employees. The effects were, and still are, deadly.


Though regulations were placed on asbestos use in the 1930s by the government of the UK, the enforcement of those regulations was slack. The shipping industry in the Upper Clyde River region remained reliant on asbestos. This harmed not only shipbuilders themselves, but office workers in the shipyards, shipbuilder’s families, and passengers on ships as well. 


Because the adverse effects of asbestos take time to manifest, many retirees who worked in the Scottish shipyards in the 1960s and 1970s are now being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a deadly form of lung cancer that has claimed the lives of 2% of Scottish citizens per year.