The Washington Navy Yard is the oldest shore facility belonging to the United States Navy. Strategically located on the Anacostia River in Washington DC, the Washington Navy Yard was once a bustling center of industrial ship activity. Today, Washington Navy Yard is the United States Navy’s ceremonial and administrative headquarters. In fact, the Washington Navy Yard is home to the Chief of Naval Operations, and many navy command centers including, the Naval Historical Center, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and the Department of Naval History.    

History of the Washington Navy Yard

The Washington Navy Yard was founded in 1799 by George Washington. During the shipyard’s first few years of operation, Washington Navy Yard became the Navy’s largest facility for shipbuilding and repair. During the War of 1812, Washington Navy Yard was burned to prevent it from falling into the enemy’s hands. After the war, the Washington Navy Yard was rebuilt and began to focus primarily on shipbuilding. The Washington Navy Yard also manufactured steam engines for Navy war vessels.

During the civil war, the Washington Navy Yard played an important role in the defense of the U.S. capital. At the time, the shipyard was responsible for manufacturing all ordnance, referring to the weapons and ammunition for the Navy. After the civil war, the Washington Navy Yard continued its skilled production of naval ordnance and entered the World War era as one of the largest manufacturers of naval guns and explosives in the world. At the peak of ordnance production in World War II, the Washington Navy Yard employed nearly 25,000 people. In 1945, the Washington Navy Yard’s name was changed to the “U.S. Naval Gun Factory.”?

The Washington Navy Yard served as the ceremonial receiving area for a number of diplomatic missions and historic national events. Additionally, the Washington Navy Yard was also the site of incredible technological and scientific advancements in the ship industry. In 1973, the Washington Navy Yard was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. 

Weapons continued to be manufactured at the Washington Navy Yard until the 1960s. In 1964, the Washington Navy Yard discontinued its shipyard and ordnance plant activities and was converted to an administrative center for U.S. Navy activities. Now, the Washington Navy Yard serves as the Headquarters for the Naval District of Washington.

Asbestos & the Washington Navy Yard

As an older shipyard and naval base, the Washington Navy Yard used many asbestos containing products. Prior to the 1980 health warnings regarding asbestos exposure, asbestos was used in various shipyard operations and industrial machinery without knowledge of its dangers. Shipyard workers at the Washington Navy Yard regularly used asbestos products and worked in vessels that had been built with asbestos. Asbestos containing materials were also used extensively in the manufacture of guns and explosives. Because of its ability to fireproof materials, withstand extreme temperatures, and resist corrosion, asbestos was considered a “miracle mineral”?.

  • Washington Navy Yard workers were continuously exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos, which can result in severe and potentially fatal diseases. When asbestos containing materials are manipulated, a fibrous dust is released into the air. In the tight, poorly ventilated areas of ships and industrial factories, asbestos inhalation is very likely. When inhaled, asbestos fibers can become lodged in the lungs or the protective lining of many of the body’s organs and cause life threatening diseases, including:
  •  Mesothelioma (a cancer of the protective lining that covers most of the body’s internal organs, including the lungs)
  •  Lung cancer
  • Asbestosis (lung tissue scarring)
  • Cancer in other organs

Asbestos-related diseases can remain asymptomatic in the body for decades. As a result, former shipyard and ordnance plant employees at the Washington Navy Yard may not yet show symptoms of asbestos-related health complications. If you think you have been exposed to asbestos, it is important to seek medical advice. Early detection can help to better manage some of these serious diseases.

Asbestos Injuries at the Washington Navy Yard – Washington DC

If you or a loved one worked at the Washington Navy Yard, you may have been exposed to asbestos. Asbestos exposure can put you at risk of developing serious diseases. Contact our offices today to find out more about your legal rights and options.

Published November 17, 2011 by