One of the worst risks of asbestos exposure for people is mesothelioma. Navy veterans are an especially hard hit group from mesothelioma, making up around one third of all mesothelioma cases. Asbestos is a silicate mineral that was used for its heat resistant and insulation qualities. Although banned since the late 1980’s, asbestos is still used in various manufacturing products. Asbestos was used in the Navy for decades in the insulation of pipes, boilers, shipyards as well as in clothing that Navy personnel wore; this was mainly due to the heat resistant qualities. Beside these, asbestos was also used in the shipping quarters and cafeterias as insulation on ships.
The Navy and mesothelioma cancer share a long and sad history. Probably more so than any other military branch, U.S. Navy personnel have contracted mesothelioma at a staggering rate. Mesothelioma is a lethal type of cancer that strikes the lining of certain organs in the body, including the lungs, heart, abdomen and testes. Mesothelioma Navy veterans now face a grim future of treatments and trying to get compensation for their pain and suffering. The government cites that there are around 21.5 million individuals alive who have served in the military. Of these, the majority who served in the Navy were exposed to asbestos. This has resulted in a spike in the number of asbestos-related illnesses among U.S. Navy veterans.
Around 300 or so asbestos products were used in the military; mostly by the Navy since the 1970’s when they were phased out. This is of little consequence to those military service men who served from the 1930’s to 1970’s, who are at a greater risk of contracting mesothelioma. Since the Navy has stopped using asbestos, there still remain many ships that are contaminated. Because asbestos was used in most of the construction of Navy ships including boiler rooms, engine rooms and sleeping quarters, the insulation still remains. Navy service men faced constant and prolonged exposure to asbestos year after year. Over time, this asbestos became weak and released fibers into the air. Because most service men were confined to close quarters, the asbestos fibers were either inhaled or ingested by them. Navy servicemen who were at the most risk for asbestos exposure were those who worked below deck such as boilermakers, engine technicians and installers. These mesothelioma Navy veterans now face a future beset of high medical expenses and ongoing treatment.
In addition to asbestos being used in Navy ships, it was also used in shipyards where construction, demolition and repairs of vessels take place. As late as the 1990’s, the Navy sold much of its older fleet of ships as junk metal, putting those who handled these materials at risk, because most weren’t qualified to handle asbestos. These Navy personnel also face an increased risk of a mesothelioma cancer at some point in their lives. Navy mesothelioma veterans face an uncertain future and should justly be compensated for their suffering.