Veterans who served the country during the 20th century faced significant health risks due to asbestos use in building Navy ships. Named "the miracle material," asbestos was the first choice for ship insulation due to its versatility and more accessible price range.
The mineral is composed of microscopic fibers that, when airborne, can be easily inhaled. Once in the body, the tiny fibers get caught in the lining of the organs, causing irritation, inflammation, and permanent scarring. Because Navy ships built before 1980 were abundant in asbestos-containing products, service members aboard were unknowingly exposed to asbestos. It led to thousands of Navy veterans getting sick decades after their service. Inhaling or ingesting the toxic fibers over an extended period may ultimately result in developing asbestos-related cancers such as:
- gastrointestinal cancer
- esophageal cancer
- pharyngeal cancer
- bronchial cancer
- laryngeal cancer
- lung cancer
- colorectal cancer
- urogenital cancer
The permanent tissue scarring facilitates tumor development as the body tries to handle the highly toxic material. Veterans diagnosed with the abovementioned cancers are eligible for compensation and may file claims.
Regular Ship Maintenance Increased the Danger of Asbestos Exposure
When disturbed, asbestos becomes friable, releasing microscopic fibers into the air, potentially increasing the danger of inhaling them for everyone around. Continuous ship maintenance disturbed the hazardous material regularly; it made avoiding asbestos exposure impossible for all personnel onboard. Service on Navy ships meant long work hours in enclosed and often poorly ventilated places, an ideal environment for inhaling the asbestos fibers floating in the air.
Operations Specialists (OS) typically worked in the Combat Information Center (CIC), which has a ship's most complex communications and sensory gear. The OS rating is derived from the radarman rating and was established in 1972 with the radarman's operational duties.
Operations Specialists operated radar, navigation, and communications equipment to detect and track ships, planes, and missiles. They risked asbestos exposure while working in enclosed spaces below deck, observing potential enemy targets on land, sea, or air, and preparing to use various weapons to neutralize a threat. OS handled encrypted and non-encrypted long and short-range radio-telephone equipment and intra-ship communication systems. They were part of the search-and-rescue teams and plotted ship maneuvers for emergencies. Maintaining the CIC area and performing routine care of the equipment were among their duties, along with the following:
- radar navigation
- tactical communications
- naval gunfire support
- combat aircraft air control
- amphibious operations
- strike control
- radio communication
Timely Diagnosis of Asbestos-Related Diseases Can Add Years to Your Life
Given that asbestos wasn't considered a dangerous material, working without protective equipment while handling asbestos products was a common occurrence on Navy ships and is the cause of veterans developing life-threatening diseases decades after service on the vessels built before the 1980s. It is crucial to seek professional help and tell the doctor about your military service when experiencing:
- loss of appetite
- unintentional weight loss
- persistent dry cough
- muscle aches
- clubbing of the fingers
- pain in the chest or shoulder
- shortness of breath
Asbestos-related illnesses are complex; doctors can easily misread the symptoms, misdiagnosing them for other respiratory conditions like COPD or asthma. Telling about past asbestos exposure is essential to receive an exact diagnosis and begin the proper treatment that stops the disease from progressing. Given that asbestos illnesses produce symptoms only after decades from the initial exposure, it is advisable to make periodic lung checkups. Chest X-rays and pulmonary function tests can help discover the presence of asbestos fibers in the lungs, a clear indication of asbestos exposure. The microscopic fibers are the source of benign asbestos diseases like:
- rounded atelectasis
- pleural plaques
- pleural effusion
- pleural thickening
- pulmonary fibrosis
- lung nodules and spots
- chronic bronchitis
- recurrent pneumonia
Even if these illnesses don't qualify a veteran to receive compensation, they should be monitored, as non-cancerous conditions stemming from asbestos exposure tend to develop into cancer. Ask for a second or third opinion from a pulmonary specialist outside the VA to ensure a correct evaluation and diagnosis. A detailed assessment is necessary for a precise cancer diagnosis that makes a veteran eligible for compensation and helps establish the best therapy.
VA Benefits or Compensation From Asbestos Trust Funds for Navy Veterans Exposed to Asbestos
If you served in the U.S. Navy between 1940 and 1980, we strongly advise you to pay close attention to your health. Veterans exposed to asbestos during their time in the Navy and who developed any of the cancers mentioned above have legal options for pursuing compensation if they have a documented diagnosis of their asbestos-related cancer.
Many veterans may have yet to be warned about the dangers of asbestos-containing products on the ships and that they were routinely exposed. We offer support by connecting them with experienced attorneys who can expertly assist them in getting the indemnification they deserve.