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 certain job. For instance, a training manual from 1951 instructed boiler technicians to use asbestos sheets for gasket maintenance in air valve seats and cylinder head joints. Moreover, they were using gloves which contained asbestos as safety equipment. Numerous boilermen remember how much asbestos dust was released during such operations, as 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 to 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 metalsmiths, welders, machinist's mates, hull maintenance technicians, gunner's mates and fire control technicians. Regardless of the duties you had while in the Navy, if you were exposed to asbestos, we strongly encourage you to keep a close eye on your health so as to make sure the carcinogen has not affected your lungs. In the unfortunate case you have already developed a disease as a consequence of military asbestos exposure, we highly recommend filing a claim with the VA to recover the financial compensation you deserve.