Hot Caseman and Asbestos Exposure

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Most U.S. Navy vessels built before 1980 contained tremendous amounts of asbestos fireproofing and insulation products used to cover most of the equipment. Personnel on these ships risked developing severe asbestos-related health conditions due to the mineral's extreme toxicity.

The health risks associated with asbestos became public knowledge in the mid-1970s. By then, more than 300 asbestos-containing materials were used regularly in building various vessels for the Navy. Asbestos was present virtually everywhere on the ship:

  • engine room
  • boiler room
  • pump room
  • navigation room
  • mess hall
  • sleeping quarters

With asbestos abundantly present, exposure was impossible to avoid, even for those service members without direct contact. As the toxic material becomes friable if disturbed, repair and maintenance on the ship released tiny asbestos fibers, putting everyone onboard at risk of inhaling or ingesting them.

Once inhaled, the microscopic particles penetrate and get caught in the lung's lining, causing irritation, inflammation, and scarring. These irreversible processes are at the root of cancerous asbestos diseases like:

As the embedded asbestos fibers scar the cells over time, tumors form, and cancerous diseases occur. Many veterans in service of the Navy before the early 1980s learned only after 15-50 years that they suffered from asbestos-related diseases other than cancer:

Although these non-cancerous asbestos diseases may develop due to the asbestos fibers, being diagnosed with one of them doesn't qualify a veteran to receive compensation. However, given that illnesses caused by the tiny fibers tend to turn into cancer, former service members of the Navy should ask for a second or even a third doctor's opinion outside the VA to receive a correct diagnosis. A precise cancer diagnosis makes them eligible to file claims.

The Mount Crew Risked Asbestos Exposure in the Handling Rooms

The 5"/38 gun was mounted on many US Navy ships during WWII. In US service, the 5"/38 caliber was operated by a crew of 15 to 27 service members in the gun and ammunition handling room, called the Upper Handling Room. The hot ceaseman or hot shellman was a gun crew member who caught the ejected powder case when the gun fired and threw it out of the mount. Aside from keeping the 5"/38 gun support clear of empty powder cases, the hot case man inspected the bore after each firing and reported any damage to the gun captain.

The hot shellman's duties included checking the gun's breech and the muzzle cover and observing the hot cases ejected into case ejection chutes. He had to quickly lift the hot case out of the tray with asbestos gloves during firing and toss it to a designated place clear of the gun. Those serving as a hot caseman were required to have advanced knowledge of safety precautions in operating and firing a 5"/38 gun, agility, and physical coordination needed for catching the empty powder case, which weighed approximately 14 pounds, and throwing it quickly through ports.

Service in the enclosed spaces of the gun room and using asbestos gloves while fulfilling their duty put hot shellmen at a high risk of developing severe asbestos-related diseases. It is the case of a veteran who served on the USS Henrico (APA-45) as a hot caseman, his daughter remembers. He developed lung cancer later in his life and passed away a year after his diagnosis.

Navy Veterans Should Be Aware of Asbestos Diseases Connected to Their Service

The Navy's extensive use of asbestos increased the risk of the personnel serving on the ships being exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos fibers whenever the material was disturbed. Lungs are primarily affected by airborne asbestos particles. Due to the long latency period, asbestos-related pulmonary conditions often reach an advanced stage by the time they can be diagnosed. However, there are signs of degenerative processes in the lungs that veterans should pay attention to:

Veterans who served in the Navy before the early 1980s should make an appointment with the doctor as soon as possible if experiencing any of the above symptoms. Seeking professional help is essential to prolong life expectancy, and telling the doctor about the military service helps you receive an exact diagnosis.

Paying attention to the symptoms prevents losing precious time, as non-cancerous asbestos-related illnesses have the potential to turn into cancer. Over the years, the asbestos fibers irritate the lung tissue enough for cell mutation and tumors to form.

Being Diagnosed With a Malignant Asbestos Disease Makes You Eligible for Compensation

If you are a veteran of the Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, U.S. Army Transport Service, or Merchant Marine, you may become eligible for disability compensation if diagnosed with asbestos-related cancers:

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

With the help of an experienced lawyer, you can file a claim to receive compensation for diagnostic tests and treatments and diminish the burden of medical bills. If you have cancer due to asbestos exposure, we offer help by connecting you with skilled attorneys ready to assist with your case.

If you have a cancer diagnosis please contact us

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