Asbestos was present everywhere aboard the Navy ships; pipes and electrical wire systems ran through every quarter, resulting in a working environment that contained high levels of asbestos and posed severe health risks. The office setting of a Navy ship was often a cabin that functioned as a sleeping quarter, too. The ship's office was often a cramped space with heavy air, a potential risk factor for asbestos inhalation.
As part of the Administrative Department, a personnelman was responsible for maintaining all administrative data and paperwork of the enlisted personnel, which was necessary for the ship to function correctly.
They handled personnel records, maintained service records, interviewed personnel, created forms, prepared and published reports, and provided recommendations for new assignments. On top of the regular duties, personnelman often took part in other essential activities such as damage control or fire control.
They were constantly in contact with asbestos elements and as a consequence developed severe diseases.
Since the demand for asbestos was high because of the low costs, the manufacturers who sold asbestos products neglected the health risk of using it.
Before 1980, asbestos was used in all army operations for building ships, bases, weapons, and gear. It was water and heat-resistant, an ideal insulation material.
Therefore, all personnel who served and worked in the U.S. Navy and Air Force were in danger of asbestos exposure. It is why many veterans struggle with mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer.
According to Kenneth A., aboard the USS Everglades (AD-24): "We didn't know that this toxic material is present everywhere on the ship, in everything around us. It's a terrible knowledge that the air we breathed was toxic, and we could be facing the consequences as time passes by."