Boilermen and Asbestos Exposure


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 provide 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 or watertender was responsible for tending to the hot water systems on a steamship by:

  • operating
  • maintaining
  • cleaning
  • repairing
  • periodical testing
  • regular inspecting

A boilerman's job involved a lot of physical work, implying tasks such as using the shovel to insert coal in the engine's firebox to supply a system that relied on burning coal to keep the ship going. Boilermen were also in charge of the large boilers in the fire rooms, spending most of their time in these rooms coated with asbestos while tending to the boilers, which contained asbestos parts. The toxic mineral was so abundant in this part of the ship that you could see its white fibers. Therefore, the air these crewmen breathed was contaminated by airborne asbestos fibers, making it visibly dusty.

The asbestos exposure area is quite restrained in the case of a boilerman because his responsibilities were focused only on a restricted area where the boilers were located. Boilermen were exposed to the dangerous asbestos fibers whenever they worked with components like:

  • pumps
  • valves
  • insulation
  • coatings
  • sealants
  • tapes

According to William R., a 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 asbestos-related lung disease.

Daryl B., a boilerman who worked aboard the USS Sierra (AD-18), says: ''Anyone working in the boiler room was exposed to the fibers; they were present everywhere and in large quantities because asbestos did a great job at insulating the boiler room. There was no protective equipment back then as there is now. You didn't get any mask or face cover, you couldn't avoid inhaling asbestos, and you were working with your bare hands.''. He is now struggling with a persistent cough due to his years of exposure.

If you served on a Navy ship built before the 80s, you were at a high risk of asbestos exposure and developing asbestos-related illnesses decades later. Veterans diagnosed with asbestos cancers are entitled to compensation and immediately qualify for claims. We can assist those willing to make legal steps by connecting them with experienced lawyers ready to help.

If you have a cancer diagnosis please contact us

Related News & Updates