Before the late 1970s, naval ships were built with asbestos, as the Navy mandated the cheap and adaptable material in their construction. Asbestos abounded the market, and it was an ideal insulating material thanks to its excellent heat resistance, insulation, and fireproofing capabilities, making it suitable for the shipbuilding industry.
The material's low melting point was a perfect fit for producing more than 300 asbestos-containing products for the increasing number of Navy ships built for the Second World War; being around asbestos while serving aboard exposed thousands of Marines to asbestos dust, including ship's servicemen.
Inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers was an inescapable hazard for all Navy personnel, as ship maintenance and repair disturbed the toxic material continuously, sending its microscopic fibers into the air. Once the airborne asbestos particles enter the body, they can attach to the lining of major organs, causing irritation, inflammation, scarring, and continuous cell damage over the years. The process often leads to cell mutation and the appearance of tumors, resulting ultimately in asbestos-related cancers such as:
- laryngeal cancer
- esophageal cancer
- pharyngeal cancer
- lung cancer
- colorectal cancer
- urogenital cancer
- bronchial cancer
- gastrointestinal cancer
Navy veterans diagnosed with the malignant diseases mentioned above may qualify for compensation and expedited claims if their cancer diagnosis is documented.
Exposed to Asbestos While Providing Essential Services
Asbestos comprises microscopic fibers that separate easily, so they can quickly become airborne, representing an imminent risk of asbestos exposure for everyone. The enclosed and, many times, poorly ventilated spaces on the ships enhanced the chances of inhaling the toxic material's particles, as asbestos fibers can float in the air for hours before settling and covering things as the white dust many Navy veterans remember.
Ship's servicemen (SH) were the ones who managed and operated all shipboard retail and service activities. They played an important role in keeping sailors' good morale by providing services for comfort and care. SHs risked asbestos exposure while working long hours in enclosed spaces of different environments aboard:
- laundry plants
- ships' uniform stores
- coffee kiosks
- tailor shops
- laundry shops
- cobbler shops
The SH rating was established in 1943 with distinct categories of barber, cobbler, laundryman, and tailor and merged into one rating in 1948. SHs or administrationmen were accountable for inventory; they procured and received stock for the ship's store and maintained the financial records and accounting systems. SHs also ensured the stocking, repair, and maintenance of vending machines and were responsible for managing and operating:
- retail and service activities while afloat
- inventory coming in and going out
- placed orders
- ship's barbershop
- laundry and tailor shop
- cash collection and depositing
Permanent Health Damages After Longtime Asbestos Exposure
It was in the late 30s that scientists discovered the health effects of prolonged asbestos exposure, but despite the devastating outcomes, the toxic mineral was banned only long after. As a consequence, everyone who served on Navy ships built before the 1980s faced a high risk of asbestos exposure and had chances of developing asbestos-related diseases such as:
- pulmonary fibrosis
- lung nodules and spots
- chronic bronchitis
- recurrent pneumonia
- rounded atelectasis
- pleural effusion
- pleural plaques
- pleural thickening
Even though these benign illnesses don't qualify a veteran for compensation, their regular examination is essential, as non-cancerous asbestos diseases have the potential to turn into cancer. Periodic chest X-rays and pulmonary function tests can help discover if they developed into cancer, and a cancer diagnosis will make veterans eligible for claims.
Asbestos-related health conditions are complex and can often be misdiagnosed as the symptoms resemble common, less dangerous respiratory diseases. Doctors can misread the signs and advise inadequate treatments, unknowingly wasting precious time and facing patients in a worsened condition later. To prevent such events, Navy veterans should make an appointment with the doctor and schedule a checkup when experiencing:
- pain in the chest or shoulder
- persistent dry cough
- shortness of breath
- night sweats
- general weakness
- unintentional weight loss
- respiratory system complications
Going to the doctor when the first signs appear is vital, and asking for a second or even a third doctor's opinion outside the VA is crucial for an exact diagnosis and the best appropriate treatment. You can help your doctor's correct assessment by speaking about the military service and the chances of asbestos exposure on the ships.
Offering Assistance for Claiming the Rightful Compensations
Navy veterans who fulfilled duty between the 1930s and the 1980s are at a high risk of developing severe diseases from exposure to asbestos and toxic chemicals during service. Asbestos-related illnesses require medical care and treatments that generate high costs and may quickly drain financial and emotional resources.
Veterans diagnosed with cancer due to toxic exposure may be eligible to file claims and receive financial compensation if there's proof of service connection. We can assist by connecting you with legal experts ready to help with your case.