In the U.S. Navy, asbestos exposure did not occur only on ships and submarines per se but also while people were training for a particular job. Being in a military base for months exposed trainees to asbestos and other harmful chemicals used to extinguish a fire or clean machinery.
But Navy trainees faced a high risk of asbestos exposure, first and foremost, due to their specialty: service onboard the ships containing asbestos.
For instance, as study material in a training manual from 1951 shows, future boiler technicians were instructed to use asbestos sheets for gasket maintenance in air valve seats and cylinder head joints. Moreover, they were using gloves that contained asbestos as safety equipment.
Numerous boilermen remember how much asbestos dust was released during such operations, as the water needed to be mixed with asbestos fibers to form a thick paste for coating joints, which would fill the air with carcinogenic dust. The maintenance and repairs of boilers also involved great exposure to asbestos since the gaskets in packing materials would be removed and replaced, thereby releasing toxic fibers.
Those who would become boatswain's mates were not protected from asbestos either, as they had to perform activities such as sanding asbestos paint and grinding asbestos floor tiles. Boatswain's mates would also sleep in quarters whose walls were covered in asbestos insulation, which is a very friable product.
Future pipefitters had to remove asbestos lagging from pipes before they could proceed to repairs, as well as handle loose asbestos, gaskets, seals, and insulation. Like boilermen, they would mix water with asbestos fibers and other products to obtain a paste with which they would subsequently cover pipes. The pipes were then wrapped in asbestos cloth for insulation.
Radiomen in training would encounter asbestos, too. The bases of radio tubes were made with plastic molding compounds, which usually contained asbestos as filler. Moreover, a training manual instructed radiomen to install a heat shield made of asbestos in order to protect the heat-sensitive parts of the equipment.
These are only a few of the Navy jobs which involved tremendous asbestos exposure. Other occupations include:
- machinist's mates
- hull maintenance technicians
- gunner's mates
- fire control technicians
Regardless of your duties while in the Navy, if you were exposed to asbestos, we strongly encourage you to keep a close eye on your health to ensure the carcinogen has not affected your lungs.
Given that health conditions caused by asbestos exposure can take decades to develop, veterans should schedule an appointment with the doctor as soon as possible when experiencing:
- pain in the chest or shoulder
- unintentional weight loss
- pain in the chest or shoulder
- persistent dry cough
- shortness of breath
- respiratory system complications
- night sweats
- general weakness
These are signs of degenerative processes in the lungs, the primary organs affected by the inhaled asbestos fibers. Once in the body, the tiny asbestos particles can cause non-malignant diseases like:
- rounded atelectasis
- pleural effusion
- pleural plaques
- pleural thickening
- pulmonary fibrosis
- lung nodules and spots
- chronic bronchitis
- recurrent pneumonia
Because non-malignant asbestos diseases have the tendency to turn into cancer, the microscopic asbestos fibers are also the culprit for cancerous illnesses like:
- bronchial cancer
- laryngeal cancer
- gastrointestinal cancer
- esophageal cancer
- pharyngeal cancer
- lung cancer
- colorectal cancer
- urogenital cancer
Navy veterans diagnosed with the cancers mentioned above have the right to file claims for compensation from the asbestos trust funds and the VA. In the unfortunate case that you have been diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer due to military asbestos exposure, we highly recommend taking legal steps to receive the financial compensation you deserve. We can help by contacting you with experienced attorneys ready to help.