The USS Salem (CA-139) was a Des Moines-class heavy cruiser laid down on July 4, 1945, and launched on March 25, 1947. It was commissioned on May 14, 1949, under Capt. J. C. Daniel’s command as CA-139 and served in the U.S. Navy for 10 years until it was decommissioned on January 30, 1959. During its activities, the ship carried a complement of 1,799 people on board and had its main missions in Norfolk, Newport News, Barcelona, Algiers, Bermuda, Malta, Italy, France, Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon. After decommissioning, the ship was struck from the Navy Register on December 7, 1991, and used as a museum in Quincy, Massachusetts since 1994.
Asbestos fibers do not dissolve in water or evaporate, they are resistant to heat, fire, chemical, and biological degradation and are mechanically strong, hence they have been used in hundreds of products used in U.S. Navy ships. Asbestos fibers may enter the atmosphere due to the maintenance and repair jobs inevitable for the good functioning of the warships. These fibers can be breathed deep into the lungs where they may stay for a long time, causing possible damage.