By the 1940s, all Navy ships were insulated with asbestos, the "miracle material" of those times. Although toxic, asbestos was affordable and resisted high temperatures, a must for the Navy ships going into battle.
Each time maintenance and repairs were done on the ship, asbestos fibers would be released into the air, and those on the worksite inhaled it. However, Navy personnel did not know the dangers, as the health risks associated with asbestos became public only in the early 1980s. By the time the toxicity of asbestos became common knowledge, thousands of veterans had suffered from the severe effects of exposure to microscopic asbestos fibers.
Once in the body, asbestos fibers cause inflammation and permanent scarring in the lining of major organs and can lead to the development of tumors over time. Diseases caused by asbestos can be latent for up to 50 years, often undetected until the advanced stages, making their treatment challenging. It is why veterans who served between the 1930s and the 1980s should make an appointment with the doctor as soon as possible when experiencing any of the symptoms:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- persistent coughing
- abdominal pain or swelling
- unintentional weight loss
Paying attention to the symptoms can save your life, as non-cancerous illnesses caused by asbestos have the potential to turn into cancer.
Naval Aviators Were in Contact With Various Asbestos Elements on the Ships
During WWII, fighter aircraft were crucial to the success of the conflict, and aircraft carriers became one of the most potent naval offensive elements, as battles between fleets were often fought by planes. Seaborne aircraft was present in fleet actions at sea, strikes against naval units in port, support for ground forces, and anti-submarine warfare. More than 1,100 cadets a month were trained in the Navy as aviators during the war, and naval aviation became a pillar of the Military's power.
Aircraft pilots in the Navy mastered taking off and landing on ships of all sizes while at sea during many hours of training. Their duties onboard included planning for flights, briefing, operating aircraft, launching, flying, making a carrier landing, and debriefing. When they weren't flying, the pilots fulfilled several other duties on the aircraft carrier. They were responsible for keeping all aircraft in proper function and ready at all times, including:
- loading and unloading cargo
- performing routine maintenance
As part of the carrier's crew, they also participated in training exercises and had additional duties such as:
- damage control drills
- standing watch
- tasks assigned by the ship's commanding officer
The Navy ships built before the 1980s abounded in asbestos; as aircraft carriers had asbestos products onboard, avoiding exposure was impossible. The flight deck was one of the potential places where asbestos contamination could occur due to the high noise levels, cramped spaces, and heavy air. Additionally, the sleeping quarters of naval aviators were right beneath the flight deck. The planning for flights, briefing, and debriefing was also in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation below the deck, putting naval aviators at a high risk of inhaling the microscopic asbestos fibers.
Early Detection Is Crucial When Dealing With Asbestos-Related Diseases
Health conditions stemming from asbestos exposure are complex and can often be misdiagnosed. Most doctors can easily misread the symptoms, unintentionally delaying treatment when immediate action could add years to life.
The diagnostic process of asbestos-related lung diseases is challenging because these lung affections can be very similar to chronic lung diseases. Consequently, aside from the physical exam of listening for abnormal sounds with the stethoscope, doctors may need other concluding tests like:
- imaging tests (chest X-ray or a CT scan )
- blood tests
- pulmonary function tests
- oxygen desaturation tests
Veterans should ask for a second or even a third doctor's opinion outside the VA to ensure their diagnosis is accurate and they receive suitable treatment as soon as possible.
Upon a Clear Cancer Diagnosis, You May Qualify for Compensation
Manufacturers who sold asbestos products were aware of the health hazards but withheld information because the demand was high. The versatility and low cost of asbestos generalized its use in building vehicles, bases, weapons, and gear for the Military. As a result, many veterans are now struggling with life-threatening diseases caused by asbestos exposure.
Navy veterans diagnosed with the following cancerous conditions due to service-related asbestos exposure may be eligible for compensation through the Department of Veterans Affairs:
- bronchial cancer
- lung cancer
- laryngeal cancer
- gastrointestinal cancer
- pharyngeal cancer
- colorectal cancer
- esophageal cancer
- urogenital cancer
Should you consider taking legal action and filing a claim with the VA to receive the financial compensation you deserve, we can help you contact the best legal specialist for your case.