Asbestos Use in New York City

New York City & Asbestos Exposure

New York City is home to more than eight million people living in just over 300 square miles.

New York City has been a construction and transportation hub for over 200 years.

The five boroughs of New York City are considered to be among the most vibrant and cultural places in the world. Made up of:

  1. Brooklyn
  2. The Bronx
  3. Manhattan
  4. Queens
  5. Staten Island

In the mid-19th to early 20th century, New York City’s ideal proximity to rivers, harbors and the ocean made it an industrial haven for shipping, power plants and manufacturing trades.

Many immigrants to the United States joined labor unions and became electricians, plumbers, printers, construction workers, laborers, steamfitters and painters.

In many cases, generations of grandfathers, fathers and sons worked in the same trades.

Many of these trades used asbestos-containing equipment like:

  • Insulation
  • Electrical products
  • Joint compounds
  • Floor Tiles
  • Building materials
  • Pipes


Asbestos was used in the City’s construction boom in the early 20th century to insulate schools, public housing units, sewage treatment plants, office facilities, churches, restaurants, bars and many other public establishments.

Other workers found employment in New York City’s garment and metal factories, power generation plants, oil refineries, chemical plants, and shipyards.

Many of these plants used asbestos in and on equipment including boilers, pumps, valves and turbines. Asbestos was widely used in shipyards and power plants.

Shipyards and Asbestos

The ship-building industry used asbestos to insulate equipment, pipes, and boilers. Civilian shipyard workers known as yardbirds built ships and were often joined by U.S. Navy workers to repair ships during World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard was among the largest shipyards in the World. Many of the New York City shipyards had dry docks which allowed ships to be lifted out of the water for extensive construction and repair. Veterans and civilian shipyard workers make up a large percentage of asbestos-caused injuries such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Power Plant Industry