Electrician's Mates and Asbestos Exposure


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 centuries 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 or instrumentman 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, lights, 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, and also after inspecting and testing the electric power equipment. Unfortunately, the work was performed mainly indoors, so 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.

Another testimonial from Keith C. - "I was an Electrician's Mate onboard the USS Yosemite AD 19 from 1982-84. I have spent many hours working in the propulsion spaces, standing watches, and repairing just about everything. I went on to the USS Conyngham DDG 17 as a second-class Electrician continuing electrical work throughout the ship. I have been exposed to asbestos on both ships."

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