Starting with the 1900s, shipping became essential in the U.S. and many shipyards ramped up building Navy destroyers to serve in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. Because of its affordability, tensile strength, and resistance to heat and chemical damage, asbestos was widely used in the construction of marine vessels. Equipped with the latest advances in military technology, these versatile ships were designed to contribute to numerous offensive and defensive missions.
Navy veterans risked asbestos exposure in a number of ways during their service, and we think they deserve to be heard.
During World War II, These Military Ships Were the Homes to Thousands of Navy Personnel
American warships and other vessels of the Second World War like carriers and battle cruisers operated with boilers, turbines, pumps, incinerators, and other heavy-duty equipment that relied on asbestos construction for safe, long-term use. Asbestos was widely used in shipbuilding for various reasons, including its affordability, tensile strength, and resistance to heat, fire, and corrosion.
Our brave veterans who served our country in the Navy from World War II through the Vietnam War tell stories of asbestos dust raining down on them. Asbestos was used to insulate pipes aboard ships so that they would cool down or heat up, depending on the type of pipe involved. The hazardous mineral was wrapped with a layer of felt that was then covered with tar. This felt wrapping contained up to 50 percent asbestos. Because the pipes were everywhere on the ship from the sailors' quarters to the sailor's mess hall, thousands of Navy personnel were unknowingly exposed to dangerous dust.
Asbestos dust that has been inhaled or ingested can become lodged deep within the lining of the chest, lungs, abdomen, and the heart. Extensive medical documentation shows that Navy veterans disproportionately suffer from lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other health conditions.
"Asbestos Has Turned My Life Upside Down"
Because asbestos was considered a miraculous, indestructible substance with powerful wartime applications, the U.S. government mandated its use on nearly every ship in the Navy. It was everywhere: in adhesives, boilers, pipe coverings, deck coverings, valves, and more. It was used just as heavily in engine rooms as in living quarters. Navy personnel who slept below pipes told us stories of waking up covered in toxic asbestos dust.
As a testament to the strength of our brave veterans who served onboard Navy ships, our non-profit organization is sharing the courageous stories of our members.
"I used to sleep in bunks located right below asbestos-covered pipes that would shake off asbestos dust daily. I remember we could even see white dust falling off the pipes and remaining suspended in the air, but back in those days, nobody knew that they contained asbestos and how dangerous it was. As an avid smoker, I abdicated myself to the unhealthy habit, not knowing that I tripled the risks of cancer as a result of the fatal combination of smoking and asbestos exposure", Robert W. shared with us.
"I do remember, asbestos was heavily used for insulation and covered pipes, motors, and pumps that helped run the ships. As part of my daily duty, I had to remove defective pipe lagging and re-wrap the pipe with more asbestos-containing lagging, without adequate respiratory protection", said Peter A., another veteran exposed to asbestos while serving in the U.S. Navy.
"I got exposed to asbestos while working in the U.S. Navy for more than 13 years starting in 1954 when I enrolled in the military to be a serviceman. After having a cough for nearly a year and repeatedly being told by my GP that I was fine, I got referred for a chest X-ray. I was diagnosed with asbestosis - which can cause lung tissue scarring and lead to complete pulmonary failure and a few months later with lung cancer which has added to the fibrosis I already had", said Donald C.
Thousands of Navy Veterans Have Exchanged Peaceful Retirement for Diseases They Cannot Survive
The lingering issue from military service is the health impact of asbestos exposure. Navy veterans are still being afflicted with asbestos-related diseases. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer following years of asbestos exposure in the Navy, you may qualify for significant compensation.
Our resources include information on available benefits for veterans, lessons learned from survivors, and how to connect veterans and mesothelioma/asbestosis/lung cancer patients with former shipmates, as well as facilitate the communication between those who served or worked on asbestos-contaminated vessels and shipyards across the U.S. For more information, please call us at 760.621.6147.