Navy service members were profoundly affected by the environment in which they worked and lived, as all jobs posed a high risk of asbestos exposure on the Navy ships. No personnel was safe, not even those with minimum contact with the material. Asbestos was considered a "miracle material" and abundantly used in building ships, contaminating every corner of the vessel.
The poorly ventilated spaces below the deck provided an ideal environment for exposure to those working long hours in the ship's interior spaces and increased the risk of inhaling asbestos fibers. Veterans were exposed unknowingly during service and became prone to developing asbestos-related lung diseases and cancer. Relevant job titles in danger of inhaling or ingesting the toxic fibers include:
- officers of the deck
- culinary specialists
- cryptologic technicians
- sonar technicians
Lithographers Were Among Those Significantly Threatened by the Toxic Mineral
Since Navy jobs are organized around specific skills and abilities, new ratings are created when the service's needs shift. While some of these ratings can last long, others disappear or merge into others. The Lithographer (LI) rating originated in 1948 and combined the rating of Printer and Photographic Specialists. LIs were the Navy's version of a Print Designer; they were responsible for the U.S. Navy's printing processes and ran print shops and produced printed material like:
- training materials
Sailors serving as LIs were responsible for typography, reproduction of copy, and layout of printed materials. Besides general printing, an LI's work may include the replication of specialized items such as:
- operation orders
Among LI's duties was operating and performing general maintenance on various types of photographic, offset, letterpress, and bindery equipment. When needed, LIs performed administrative responsibilities also.
Working in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation increased the chances of LIs being exposed to asbestos, as the fibers from insulation materials around pipes, boilers, and engines circulated through all compartments. Because asbestos inhalation can cause life-threatening diseases, all personnel who served on ships built before the early 80s should schedule an appointment with the doctor as soon as possible if experiencing any of the symptoms:
- shortness of breath
- persistent dry cough
- pain in the chest or shoulder
- loss of appetite
- muscle aches
- unintentional weight loss
- clubbing of the fingers
Because the microscopic asbestos fibers can create asbestos-related health problems 20 to 50 years from the initial exposure, it is essential to act immediately when the first signs of an asbestos-related disease appear. An early diagnosis prolongs life expectancy and ensures finding the proper treatment.
Asking for a Second Doctor's Opinion Decreases Misdiagnosis Chances
Diseases caused by asbestos exposure often generate symptoms resembling more common and less serious health problems. Hence, misdiagnosis and mistreatment are common. Asbestos-related illnesses are complex, and the symptoms can easily mislead doctors, so seeking a second or even a third opinion from a medical specialist outside the VA is strongly advisable.
Veterans should visit a pulmonary specialist qualified to treat lung diseases caused by prolonged asbestos exposure to ensure their condition is accurately evaluated and the diagnosis is correct.
An exact diagnosis is essential for accessing the most advanced treatments and qualifying for claims. Veterans should ask for a written medical opinion after the doctor evaluates their medical examinations. Receiving a precise diagnosis could depend on information about any possibly encountered asbestos exposure - veterans should tell the doctor about their employment history.
A Malignant Asbestos-Related Disease Makes You Eligible for Compensation
The Navy mandated the use of asbestos on the ships built before 1980 and bought the cheap material from manufacturers who withheld information about the mineral's toxicity. Consequently, Navy personnel who served between the 1930s and the 1980s unknowingly experienced the harmful effects of asbestos exposure and developed incurable diseases due to the toxic fibers.
Veterans of the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, U.S. Army Transport Service, or Merchant Marine are eligible for disability compensation if diagnosed with asbestos-related cancers:
- bronchial cancer
- lung cancer
- laryngeal cancer
- gastrointestinal cancer
- pharyngeal cancer
- colorectal cancer
- esophageal cancer
- urogenital cancer
If you suffer from any of the diseases mentioned above and wish to take legal action, a skilled lawyer can guide you through filing a claim. We can help by connecting you with experienced attorneys ready to help you receive compensation for expenses with treatments, diagnostic tests, or lost wages due to time off from work.