Electrician's Mates and Asbestos Exposure

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If you work with equipment that might heat up and eventually catch fire, you should know that the respective equipment needs insulation to work at maximum capacity. One of the most used and most effective insulators in the last two centuries was asbestos. The mineral was cheap and elastic and it was used in the shipbuilding process or during the repairs performed on ships.

Many veterans who served the country in the 19th and 20th century found out after 15-50 years that they suffer from mesothelioma, lung cancer, fibrosis, cancer of the larynx and other respiratory diseases.

An electrician's mate has the role of operating and maintaining the power systems located on a ship. Basically, they deal with generators, circuits, turbines and switchboards, or with everything that is related to the electrical components and the wiring system.

Most of their activity is performed in almost every department that contains wires, light and other electrical items. The asbestos exposure took place after many hours of working at installing power and lighting circuits, during the reparation of the distribution circuits, but also after inspecting and testing the electric power equipment. Unfortunately, the work was performed mainly indoors, so the asbestos exposure was possible because of the poor ventilation of these rooms.

Michael B., electrician's mate on USS Oriskany CV-34, declared that this job was extremely dangerous: "While we were maintaining the electric motors, the storage batteries or the shipboard elevator systems, we were exposed to asbestos." As a consequence, he is now suffering from an asbestos-related illness.

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