The health consequences that many veterans had to face are generated by asbestos exposure, with deadly effects including cancer and other severe conditions.
The toxic fibers are inhaled in the lungs, get lodged in tissues, and cause irreparable, progressive damage. Unfortunately, Navy workers did not realize the dangers that they faced since asbestos-related diseases develop decades after the initial contact with the material takes place.
As a result of their service, sonar technicians were exposed to asbestos while onboard Navy warships and military aircrafts. They worked on surface ships like destroyers, frigates, and cruisers, as well as on submarines, handling undersea surveillance, and search and rescue operations support.
Their main work was to identify and analyze underwater sounds that could detect threats and assist with navigation. Other duties involved maintaining and repairing sonar equipment, detecting malfunctions, and operating underwater fire control systems.
Sonar technicians worked and lived in closed quarters on ships or submarines containing many asbestos products. As a result, they are highly prone to developing life-threatening conditions.
Wallace L., a sonar technician aboard the USS Kimberly (DD-521), said: "Most of us were not wearing any protective equipment, and we later discovered that everything we came in contact with was made from asbestos, which we constantly had to breathe in."
Whenever parts were installed, removed, or repaired, microscopic fibers were released into the air, and anyone who inhaled them was potentially affected.