If you are a veteran who worked on U.S. Navy ships with asbestos, you are not alone. It is reported that millions of former navy shipman unknowingly or obliviously served on one of the many vessels constructed prior to the 1970s—almost guaranteed to contain an abundance of asbestos products. At that time, the U.S. Navy had a mandate—enforcing that ships be constructed with asbestos whenever possible—in an attempt to allow for the rapid production of battleships that would be both sturdy and resistant to heat and fire.
This decision to construct navy ships with asbestos was a reasonable one at one time—especially when the rapid succession of the two world wars necessitated the quick building of a daunting number of military vessels. It’s likely that the U.S. Navy intended to help preserve the safety of its men and women in combat by choosing asbestos, which was a once abundant and easily accessible substance known to be effective in fireproofing structures—in this application, allowing them to withstand some enemy attacks.
However, we now know that the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products were largely aware of the dangers associated with exposure to the once-hailed “miracle mineral.” In fact, individuals who breathed in its tiny fibers were being put at risk for both peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma, as well as other cancers—potentially endangering their lives! These multi-million dollar businesses ultimately decided to put the almighty dollar above the lives of countless veterans by keeping mum about the suspected or known risks.
Now, those who have fallen ill have the option to file a lawsuit against those businesses—most of which are now bankrupt—and seek legal recourse for the tragic effects on their health and life expectancy.
If you worked on navy ships with asbestos, you may be in that group. If this is the case, you will need to see a physician as soon as possible for a full screening and physical—possibly including a chest x-ray or other non-invasive testing methods used to look for probable signs of mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness. Another important first step is to educate yourself about early asbestos symptoms, which you will want to be on the lookout for over the next several years or even decades.
Because of its long latency period, mesothelioma is often a silent killer. Veterans who worked on navy ships with asbestos up to fifty or more years ago may still be at risk for developing the disease. Therefore, if you fall into this category, you are advised to be meticulous about monitoring your health in the years to come—even if you seem (or are even medically deemed) to be in perfect health right now.
If you have questions or doubts about whether you worked on one or more of the ships described in this article, you can contact your local Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) office for more information.