Gunner's Mates and Asbestos Exposure


During the 19th century, asbestos use was widespread in the shipbuilding process and during the repairs performed on a ship. Asbestos is composed of tiny fibers easily inhaled when working around a damaged asbestos-containing product without wearing protective gear. The poorer the workroom is ventilated, the higher the risk of inhaling asbestos dust.

Due to the abundant application of asbestos products on the ships built before 1980, many veterans found out after 15-50 years that they suffer from asbestos-related diseases thanks to inhaling or ingesting the asbestos fibers. Exposure to toxic asbestos particles is the culprit of asbestos-related cancers, as the tiny fibers get stuck in the lining of the lungs upon inhalation, irritating the tissues and causing chronic inflammation and permanent scarring. These degenerative processes will likely lead to cell mutation and tumors over time and manifest as malignant illnesses like:

  • pharyngeal cancer
  • laryngeal cancer
  • bronchial cancer
  • lung cancer
  • esophageal cancer
  • gastrointestinal cancer
  • mesothelioma
  • colorectal cancer
  • urogenital cancer

All former Navy personnel diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer qualify for receiving compensation and are eligible to file claims.

Gunner's mate/weapon specialist's job represented a high risk for asbestos exposure; they were employees who specialized in weapons and defended the US Navy ships by operating:

  • ship's guns
  • turrets
  • rocket launchers
  • guided-missile systems
  • other related equipment

Gunner's mates/weapon specialists handled the security, maintenance, and inventory of weapons like M500 shotgun, M60 machine gun, M14 rifle, M2 Browning machine gun, M4 and M16 rifles, and other pyrotechnics. Their responsibilities also included periodic tasks like:

  • running tests on weapons
  • calibrating the weapons
  • ensuring proper functioning of all weapons
  • operating and maintaining night optical devices

Other members of the gun deck, also facing the risk of being routinely exposed, were the ordnance artificers in charge of the artillery of all types and responsible for its maintenance by:

  • repairing
  • assembling
  • disassembling

Sharing the same risk of asbestos exposure were crew members of the gun deck, like gunsmiths, who performed skillful modifications and restorations to firearms, and artillery-maintenance supervisors, who coordinated the inspecting and servicing activities of artillery weapons.

The deck crew's main working locations were the turrets and the rooms where the ammunition was stored. Within the turrets, asbestos exposure wasn't so high, but the gloves they wore to protect against the burns from the shooting contained asbestos, which is famous for its toxicity. In addition, whenever they fired heavy artillery, the asbestos from other ship equipment ripped and spread as toxic dust everywhere.

Quoting Edwin A., gunner's mate on USS Oriskany CV-34: "Everything we touched contained asbestos, even our protection gloves. And whenever we shot a fire to protect us against the enemies, we killed ourselves little by little without even knowing." Unfortunately, the US Navy employee was diagnosed with mesothelioma and died in 2015.

We're here to assist Navy veterans who served on ships built before the 80s and developed cancer due to their asbestos exposure by connecting them with legal experts specializing in filing asbestos claims.

If you have a cancer diagnosis please contact us

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