While serving the country, veterans of the US Navy, the US Marine Corps, or the US Coast Guard were likely to face a lot of dangers. On the ships built before the 80s, they faced a threat unrelated to war or the challenging conditions they often encountered doing their job.
The unforeseen threat lay in the most common material on ships built between 1930 and 1980: asbestos. It was affordable and had excellent insulation properties that prevented the ship's components from heating up but represented a significant health risk for all personnel serving on the ships. On duty in the bridge crew, Quartermasters faced asbestos exposure while navigating the ship safely. They were also part of the bridge watch team, which heightened their risk of being exposed to the toxic material.
Health damages caused by longtime asbestos exposure appear only after many years from initially inhaling or ingesting the fibers. Lungs are primarily affected as the microscopic asbestos fibers infiltrate the lining and are caught and lodged in it, causing irritation, inflammation, and scarring. The process is irreversible and may lead to the development of asbestos-related cancers like:
- bronchial cancer
- laryngeal cancer
- gastrointestinal cancer
- esophageal cancer
- pharyngeal cancer
- lung cancer
- colorectal cancer
- urogenital cancer
Asbestos is highly toxic, and when disturbed, it releases microscopic fibers that can float for hours in the air. With regular ship maintenance deranging the hazardous material and most ships lacking sufficient ventilation, all naval members were at a high risk of inhaling the tiny asbestos particles. Navy veterans diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer may qualify for claims and be eligible for compensation if their medical documentation states one of the abovementioned cancers.
Abounding Asbestos Products, a Permanent Risk for the Deck Crew
Many companies used the mineral in manufacturing products for the US Navy's shipbuilding process. Consequently, asbestos was applied in most parts of a ship, from the boiler and engine rooms to navigation rooms, mess halls, and sleeping quarters. Moreover, the versatile insulating material was mandated for Navy ships; it made avoiding exposure to asbestos fibers impossible for everyone on the vessels.
Quartermasters risked asbestos exposure while working in the bridge's enclosed spaces, manning the helm and fulfilling watch duty. The Quartermaster (QM) rank is one of the Navy's original petty officer ranks from 1798. QMs were petty officers who attended to the helm, binnacle, and signals. They assisted the navigator or the officer of the deck, had navigation or steering duties, kept navigational equipment in good condition, and organized oceanographic charts.
All QMs were qualified helmsmen, as navigation mistakes can be lethal. As they say in the Navy, the quartermaster wears several different hats. It shows that the job required various skills for efficiently fulfilling duties like:
- ship control
- bridge watch
- charts accuracy
- navigational instrument maintenance
- navigational time adjustment
- visual messages exchange
Veterans Affected by Asbestos Exposure Should Take Action Immediately
Asbestos-related illnesses have a decades-long latency period, and they often go undetected until advanced stages because of it. The best is to schedule a screening and tell your doctor about your time in the Navy if experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- pain in the chest or shoulder
- unintentional weight loss
- pain in the chest or shoulder
- persistent dry cough
- shortness of breath
- respiratory system complications
- night sweats
- general weakness
Preventing the illness from developing into challenging to treat is only possible if you seek professional help in time. It can significantly prolong life expectancy if you take action at the first signs, given that the following non-cancerous asbestos-related diseases have the potential to turn into cancer:
- rounded atelectasis
- pleural effusion
- pleural plaques
- pleural thickening
- pulmonary fibrosis
- lung nodules and spots
- chronic bronchitis
- recurrent pneumonia
Even though these illnesses don't qualify a veteran to receive compensation, they should be controlled with periodic examinations and evaluations. Regular check-ups can reveal cancers that will make veterans eligible for claims and can add years to life by making it possible to begin adequate therapy. Misdiagnosis is common when dealing with health conditions caused by asbestos exposure, as the symptoms resemble those of chronic respiratory diseases and can be misleading for most doctors. Asking for a second or even a third doctor's opinion outside the VA is crucial for a precise diagnosis and timely treatment.
An additional necessary step for a correct diagnosis is an appointment with a pulmonary specialist qualified to treat lung diseases linked to prolonged asbestos exposure. An expert opinion further ensures that the health evaluation is accurate and the diagnosis is precise.
We Offer Guidance and Advice for Navy Veterans Who Were in Contact With Asbestos
You may be entitled to compensation if you are a former Navy service member diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer. Filing a claim for VA benefits or asbestos trust funds can be daunting. Unfortunately, many veterans never apply because the process seems too complicated or they miss the crucial information that a lawyer can streamline the claim process so they don't have to go through it unassisted. We can promptly connect you with the best professionals ready to help with your case.