Navy Ships with Asbestos – Engine Room Workers
Navy ships with asbestos have made millions sick. It’s a tragedy when the things we rely on to keep us safe are the very things that harm us. One staggering example of this is a 1934 law that required all United States naval ships to be constructed using fire retardant substances. Though the law itself was designed to protect maritime workers, the most celebrated fire retardant of the day was asbestos – an effective but ultimately dangerous and deadly material. Not surprisingly, the U.S. Navy was a large-scale consumer of asbestos-containing products because engine room workers aboard vessels were required to work with equipment that was hot, electrified, and required a high degree of insulation.
Consequently, asbestos and asbestos-containing products can be found on almost all U.S. Navy vessels built prior to the late 1970s. These include:
- Aircraft Carriers
- Amphibious Ships
- Auxiliary Vessels
- Destroyer Escorts
- Escort Aircraft Carriers
- Patrol Boats
- United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Vessels
How Navy Engine Room Workers were Exposed
Naval records show that asbestos was used extensively in ship construction, ship repairs, and shipyard buildings and equipment. Anyone employed by the U.S. Navy before asbestos was phased out as a building and industrial material due to new regulations would likely have encountered asbestos containing products in the course of their work, with the potential for higher than average asbestos exposure levels for anyone working closely with the material. Navy engine room workers may have fallen into this group, as they would have been required to work closely with materials fabricated using asbestos.
As engine room workers maintained and repaired different parts of ships’ engines, they often disturbed asbestos containing materials such as pipe insulation, boiler insulation, asbestos paints, plaster that incorporated asbestos fibers, and more. As asbestos dust was released into the air in the cramped and poorly ventilated engine areas of Navy ships, it would have been almost impossible for workers to avoid breathing in the asbestos or transporting it to secondary locations on their clothing unless safety equipment was provided and precautions were put into place.
Who Is Ultimately Responsible?
Unfortunately, the sad fact is that many U.S. Navy engine room workers were not issued protective equipment, even after the harmful effects of asbestos were well known in the scientific and manufacturing communities. However, a diagnosis of mesothelioma has occurred when workers or service members were exposed to the instruments, panels, insulation, pipe coverings, deck materials, mortar, valves, assemblies, gaskets, and other materials.
Engine workers may have encountered this exposure every day throughout their entire careers. Over time, when the asbestos material turned crumbly, it left workers exposed even when not disturbed in the course of maintenance. Many may have spread the free-floating fibers into their homes – created by companies that were fully aware of the tragic health dangers of the supposed miracle material.
Today’s U.S. Navy workers are protected from the hazards of asbestos because the government took care to rid ships of this dangerous materials, but their forbearers were sadly not so lucky.
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