Many US Navy workers like enginemen, firemen, electricians, a-gangers, or boilermen were at risk of becoming ill due to asbestos exposure. Asbestos was used as a fire retardant, and it has great insulation properties, which determined many manufacturers to use it in creating products like adhesives, pumps, valves, gaskets, tiles, turbines, and wire coating.
Exposure is possible whenever someone performs a task around this mineral. It is known that asbestos is composed of tiny fibers that easily get into the lungs.
Unfortunately, no doctor can tell if you developed a respiratory disease until you start having symptoms. From exposure until the first sign of disease, 20-50 years can pass. A machinist's mate or machinery repairman has the role of operating, maintaining, and repairing the engines and the equipment in the repair department used for the ship propulsion. They made repairs not only in the main engine room and evaps but throughout the whole ship. Among the devices that power the ship, we mention the steering engine, the hoisting machinery, the elevators, the refrigeration, and the air conditioning equipment.
Most of their activity is performed within the engine room where the propulsion of the ship, the electric power, the delivery of potable water, and the steam service are provided. Other places where machinist's mates do their job are the auxiliary division of the engineering department, but also other public spaces like the galley, the lounge areas, or the berthing places.
Asbestos exposure took place after many hours of working within the engine rooms where lots of equipment contains asbestos due to its insulation properties: pipes, gaskets, or adhesives. The machinist's mates spend the most time in the engine rooms during wartime, but also during the training exercises because the engineering part is exercised to its limits.
Quoting Michael C., machinist's mate on USS Compton DD-705: "Everything around us was contaminated with asbestos. Turbines, pumps, compressors, all these emanated the poisonous dust. Not only did we inhale it, but we also wore it on our clothes, exposing everyone around us, even our family." He is now suffering from an asbestos-related illness.