Seamen and Asbestos Exposure


Following World War II, service members were deeply affected by the environment in which they worked and lived, generating asbestos-related lung diseases and even cancer.

Moreover, the microscopic fibers released in every corner of their ships did not spare any Navy personnel, as they were in contact with many contaminated construction materials and products without knowing.

The poorly ventilated spaces below the deck increased exposure for those working long hours in there and inhaling asbestos fibers.

Seamen were among those significantly threatened by the toxic mineral. They handled a vast array of activities aboard the ship, being in charge of their smooth operation while performing tasks related to deck maintenance and staff supervision. To gain experience and develop training abilities, they had to work with qualified military personnel, filling various roles.

Further duties included maintaining and repairing equipment, operating telephone systems, food and cleaning services, security watch or emergency alert, and participating in Navy ceremonies.

Alfred A., a seaman aboard the USS Saratoga (CV-3), explained how typical job duties unfolded: "We had to conserve the ship's external structure and pieces of equipment, understand how to control ropes and cables with their different uses, and be knowledgeable in all operational tasks that allowed us to qualify further. Little did we know of the health hazards and the regrettable effects that we would endure later on."

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