The fact that today many veterans suffer from serious diseases like asbestosis, mesothelioma or lung cancer is unfortunate, but the US Navy is not to blame. Companies that provided asbestos-containing products for the shipbuilding process are liable. However, asbestos was a cheap material with great insulation properties which brought a lot of profit, despite sickening many veterans.
Boilermen were at the highest risk of getting ill because they worked in poorly ventilated rooms and had no protective equipment. A boilerman has the role of operating, maintaining and repairing the hot water systems on a steamship. A boilerman is also called a fireman since he deals with the heat registered on a ship. This job practically involves a lot of physical work like using the shovel to insert coal to the engine's firebox.
Boilermen were also in charge with the large boilers that were situated in the fire rooms, so they spent most of their time in these rooms.
The asbestos exposure area is quite restrained in the case of a boilerman, because his responsibilities were focused only to a restricted area where the boilers were located. So, a boilerman was exposed to this dangerous mineral whenever he worked with components like pumps, valves, insulation, coatings or even seals.
According to William R., boilerman on USS Compton DD-705, this occupation involved a lot of dangers: "There were a lot of asbestos-contaminated components around us. And what made it even more dangerous was the fact that the rooms were not ventilated enough so that we can breathe fresh air". He is now suffering from an asbestos-related illness.