Asbestos And The U.S. Navy

Due to its fire- and corrosion-proof qualities and insulating abilities, asbestos was used in Navy ships for decades. Between the 1920’s and 1970’s, the U.S. Navy used asbestos in pipe coverings, gaskets, deck coverings, brakes, clutches, and adhesives. Asbestos containing materials could be found in almost all Navy ships, including:

• Aircraft carriers
• Airships
• Battleships
• U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
• Cruisers
• Destroyers
• Frigates
• Patrol boats
• Submarines

Exposure to Asbestos

It was virtually impossible for naval officers to avoid exposure to asbestos. The cramped sleeping quarters and poorly ventilated engine rooms further magnified the effects of this exposure. Frequently, Navy officers would sleep in bunks directly below asbestos-covered pipes, waking up every morning covered in asbestos flakes.

This exposure to asbestos posed serious health hazards for many Navy officers. As a result of this exposure, many officers developed mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and other asbestos related diseases. Many of these illnesses proved fatal. In fact, asbestos led to almost as many Navy fatalities as battle did during World War II. Approximately 18/1000 Navy officers died in combat, while 14/1000 died from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

U.S. Government Failed to Protect its Officers

Long before the start of World War II, the U.S. government was aware of the dangers of asbestos. In 1922, the Navy issued a report detailing the hazards of asbestos exposure. However, the need to expand the naval fleet at the start of WWII preempted governmental precautions that would have safeguarded the health of many Navy officers.

Between 1939 and 1945, the Navy expanded its fleet from 394 ships to 6768 ships. Over 4 million workers helped build and repair ships during this rapid expansion, and all of them were exposed to asbestos on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the end of WWII did not bring about a movement to use safer materials in Navy ships. Despite the Navy’s knowledge of the dangers of asbestos, they continued using asbestos containing products in their ships until the 1970’s.

Dangers of Asbestos

Frequently, asbestos-related illnesses take decades to develop. As a result, many Navy officers did not become sick until long after retiring from service. Unfortunately, the U.S. government did not always provide adequate compensation to Navy officers who suffered from mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer as a result of their exposure to asbestos while in the Navy. Many of these officers filed mesothelioma lawsuits against the government.

If you served in the Navy and developed an illness as a result of your exposure to asbestos, you should consult an experienced mesothelioma lawyer at once. You may be entitled to receive compensation for your damages. Asbestos lawsuits are very complicated and should not be trusted to a general practitioner.

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