The US Navy history reveals a severe problem regarding former service members: asbestos exposure. The insulating and fire-retardant properties of the toxic mineral were ideal for incorporating it in more than 300 construction materials applied on naval vessels built from the 1930s through the 1980s. Aside from its unique properties, the Navy mandated the use of asbestos on the ships due to the low price range and abundance on the market.
Today, it's known that the consequences of asbestos exposure are potentially fatal. Workers in the shipyards and all personnel aboard Navy ships, including aviation metalsmiths, were inevitably exposed to the hazardous material while performing their daily tasks, unaware of the health risks they were facing.
Asbestos fibers can be inhaled quickly deep into the lungs when airborne. Once in the body, the microscopic asbestos particles may travel with the blood to major organs, accumulating in the lining, and are retained there for long periods, as our bodies lack the mechanism to eliminate them. Over time, the tiny fibers can irritate, causing chronic inflammation and permanent scarring, leading to cell mutation and tumors. This process often paves the way for asbestos-related malignant diseases such as:
- esophageal cancer
- pharyngeal cancer
- laryngeal cancer
- lung cancer
- colorectal cancer
- urogenital cancer
- bronchial cancer
- gastrointestinal cancer
Veterans diagnosed with these illnesses are eligible for compensation; if their cancer is medically documented, they may benefit from expedited claims with the asbestos trust funds and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Double Risk of Asbestos Exposure Due to Service Onboard and Maintaining Aircraft
Being around asbestos daily on the ships built before the 80s endangered the health of Navy veterans without their knowing. Routine asbestos exposure was doubled in the case of Aviation Structural Mechanics (AM) or Aviation Metalsmiths, as they were called in the World War II era. Enlisted persons were fulfilling duty onboard Navy ships abounding with asbestos and worked with aircraft containing asbestos products.
The Aviation Metalsmith rating was established in 1921 and evolved into the Aviation Structural Mechanics rating in 1948. AMs performed daily inspections on aircraft, airframes, and components, maintaining optimum performance for naval aviators on assignments to:
- aviation squadron
- aircraft carrier
- Navy ship
- naval air station
- aviation shore facility
AMs were responsible for the maintenance and repair of all aircraft structural components from the cockpit to the landing gear and everything in between:
AMs assembled metal components to repair aircraft exteriors, often using power tools, increasing their chances of releasing asbestos fibers into the air and the danger of inhaling the toxic particles.
Veterans Experienced Permanent Health Damages Years After Service
Asbestos was the "miracle material" widely utilized in building the Navy ships for the WW2 war effort, and nobody thought of its negative impact on personnel's health. Veterans are now suffering from the consequences of prolonged exposure to asbestos and developing incapacitating diseases stemming from it:
- rounded atelectasis
- pleural effusion
- pleural plaques
- pleural thickening
- pulmonary fibrosis
- lung nodules and spots
- chronic bronchitis
- recurrent pneumonia
Although these illnesses don't qualify veterans to receive compensation, it's vital to check them periodically, seeing that non-cancerous asbestos diseases have the potential to turn into cancer. Periodic chest X-rays and pulmonary function tests can help discover if they evolved into cancer, and a cancer diagnosis will make veterans eligible for claims.
Asbestos-related health conditions are complex and often misdiagnosed because their symptoms resemble other typical respiratory diseases. Doctors may misinterpret the signs and treat asbestos illnesses inadequately, losing precious time. To prevent such situations, Navy veterans should act immediately by making an appointment with the doctor and scheduling a screening when the following symptoms occur:
- persistent dry cough
- pain in the chest or shoulder
- shortness of breath
- night sweats
- general weakness
- unintentional weight loss
- respiratory system complications
Going to the doctor immediately after the first signs appear is vital, and asking for a second or even a third doctor's opinion outside the VA is decisive for a correct diagnosis and the best suitable treatment. To help the assessment process, tell your doctor about the military service and the probability of asbestos exposure on the ships.
An Asbestos-Related Cancer Diagnosis May Qualify You to File a Claim
Because asbestos was excessively used on Navy ships until the 1980s, diseases stemming from exposure to the toxic fibers exponentially increased among the personnel who served on those contaminated vessels. Navy veterans diagnosed with cancer due to service-related asbestos exposure may be compensated through the VA. The severity of their condition determines the number of benefits they can receive, and they must abide by a statute of limitations of up to five years from the date of their diagnosis.
If you decide to take legal action and file claims with the asbestos trust funds and the VA to receive the deserved financial compensation, we can assist you in contacting the best legal specialist for your case.