Because the Navy mandated using asbestos in building its ships until the 80s, no jobs kept people safe from asbestos exposure on those ships, not even those requiring minimum contact with the material.
A direct result of using asbestos-containing products on all ships of the era was that every corner of those vessels was contaminated with the toxic mineral. Asbestos was abundantly applied in the spaces that hosted machinery and weaponry to isolate heat, but it was also present in the components of engines to keep them from catching fire.
When disturbed, asbestos becomes friable and can release microscopic fibers into the air. Inhaling or ingesting these tiny asbestos particles damages the lining of major organs and is the culprit of many veterans' asbestos-related diseases. Because the signs and symptoms of these diseases appear decades after the initial exposure, they are often discovered only in advanced stages, reducing the chances of veterans being timely treated.
As the fibers irritate the tissues, they facilitate cell mutation and the appearance of asbestos-related cancers like:
- pharyngeal cancer
- laryngeal cancer
- bronchial cancer
- lung cancer
- esophageal cancer
- gastrointestinal cancer
- colorectal cancer
- urogenital cancer
Veterans diagnosed with any of the cancers mentioned above are eligible for compensation and immediately qualify for filing claims.
Rocket-engine-component mechanics were most likely exposed while working below deck and handling asbestos-containing components of systems needed to fulfill their responsibility of keeping hydraulic, pneumatic, and mechanical components of rocket engines operational by:
In addition, they had to use various tools and testing instruments while changing batteries, brake pads, tires, oil, and other equipment. Other essential tasks included:
- inspection of all missile systems
- determine and calibrate mechanical performance
- diagnose, adjust, repair, or overhaul engines
The poor ventilation of spaces below the deck provided an optimum environment for inhaling the dangerous asbestos fibers from insulation materials around pipes that ran through all compartments.
James D., a veteran serving aboard the USS North Carolina (BB-55), said: "I remember we would have to remove and install clutches and wheel bearings and repair engines that we had no idea contained asbestos seals and gaskets."
U.S. Navy mechanics may have been exposed to asbestos and are at risk of developing lung cancer or mesothelioma. Service members performing work in aircraft carriers, buildings, and vehicles on naval bases and those living aboard ships suffer the effects of this harmful material. Navy personnel diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer qualify for filing claims.