Commissaryman and Asbestos Exposure


Asbestos use increased during World War II. Before the health profession recognized asbestos's dangers, the mineral was largely used in building ships.

Commissarymen or stewards were put at risk of inhaling asbestos fibers while preparing meals for enlisted sailors in galleys on the ship. In addition, commissarymen maintained food service spaces and associated equipment in a clean, safe, and sanitary condition. This duty exposed them further to inhaling asbestos fibers. Maintenance attributions included the storerooms and refrigerated spaces, often cramped and with heavy air, a potential risk factor for asbestos inhalation.

Asbestos-Related Respiratory Risks for Commissaryman

One of the exposure causes on the ships, besides the insulation present on every pipe running through every quarter of the ship, was the asbestos-containing paint. It was used on ships because it was fireproof, non-corrosive, stable, and gave increased tensile strength to products and improved their holding power.

Some responsibilities of commissaryman include:

  • menu management
  • food preparation
  • mess, kitchen, and dining facilities operations
  • operation and management of shipboard living quarters
  • maintain subsistence inventories using storeroom management procedures
  • keeping accountability records

All these activities can increase exposure to asbestos-containing materials and put personnel at risk.

What Can Commissarymen Affected by Asbestos Exposure Do?

Before 1980, commissarymen or stewards were at major risk of inhaling asbestos particles while working in galleys. The best is to call their doctor and schedule a screening. Because of the long latency period of asbestos exposure caused illnesses, they often go undetected until they develop advanced stages. It's why early detection and intervention are the keys to survival. In their early stages, mesothelioma and asbestosis are often misdiagnosed, so asking for a second or even a third doctor's opinion outside the VA is advisable. Your doctor will be able to diagnose you more accurately with information about your employment history.

If you or a family member has developed an asbestos-related cancerous condition due to exposure while working as a commissaryman/steward, you may want to consult with an experienced attorney. We can connect you with the right attorneys to be advised of your rights and options, given your specific circumstances.

If you have a cancer diagnosis please contact us

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