The U.S. military started using asbestos in its vessels beginning in the 1930s. Since it was affordable, water-resistant, and fireproof, its use on naval ships lasted for decades, unknowingly putting the personnel at high risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.
The most widely spread materials containing this hazardous mineral include fire-proofed pipes, boilers, and furnaces, as well as gaskets, pumps, ceiling, floors, and wall insulation.
Inhaling asbestos causes fibers to travel to the lungs and generate inflammation and scarring. The long-term effects can appear up to 50 years after the initial exposure, with symptoms that require immediate treatment.
Cryptologic technicians were part of the Navy, performing a wide range of tasks for gathering national intelligence, focusing on cryptology (techniques for secure communication) and signal knowledge. In addition, they were in charge of conducting Electronic Warfare, Information Operations, and Anti-Ship Missile Defense, operating computer systems, maintaining electronic sensors, and ensuring safety.
John D., Cryptologic Technician aboard the USS Oxford (AGTR-1), said: "Veterans who worked and lived aboard Navy ships were in contact with asbestos on a daily basis, and we had to find out the hard way when our health gradually deteriorated decades later."
While some servicemen are at higher risk of developing asbestos-related conditions than others, everyone experienced some level of exposure due to the prevalence of the mineral on all parts of the ship.