If you worked for the US Navy, you deserve to know that you were likely exposed to a toxic mineral that causes a series of health problems. Asbestos was widely used during the shipbuilding process as over 300 products necessary for it contained asbestos. The problem with this material is that when damaged it releases dust into the air and anyone who works with or around this can easily inhale it. The first public case of death following asbestos exposure was registered in 1924. Even so, it was fully used in many industries since then, but the US Navy stopped building ships with asbestos since 1985.
Boatswain's mates were also at risk of developing respiratory diseases just like other workers on a ship: boilermen, pipefitters, machinist's mates, plumbers, shipfitters or carpenters. We should mention that a boatswain is an officer who has the role of assisting the first lieutenant and supervising the crew.
A Boatswain's mate is in charge of directing, training and supervising the personnel on a ship. Taking charge of working parties, acting as petty officer-in-charge of packet boats, self-propelled barges, tugs and performing seamanship tasks are among a boatswain's mate's responsibilities. Also, they are in charge with the damage control parties.
Whenever some cargo, ammunition, fuel or general stores are involved, the boatswain is responsible with the equipment utilized for loading and unloading these items. Plus, he has to report to his superior everything that happens on the ship.
The asbestos exposure area was extremely various in the case of a boatswain, because his responsibilities were many, including the maintenance of the entire ship. So, he was exposed to this dangerous mineral whenever he worked with paint, floor tiles, electrical components or when the cargo loaded on ship contained asbestos.
According to Thomas E., boatswain on the USS Barney DDG-6, this occupation involved a lot of dangers: "This ship was laden with dangerous levels of asbestos, mercury metals and leaded paints. We were exposed while we were supervising the crew, while we were doing our jobs below the deck and even while we were dealing with the floor tiles." He is now suffering from mesothelioma.