United States Navy Veterans and Mesothelioma Risks

Quick Summary

United States Navy veterans belong to a large fraternity. Today, there are approximately 23 million American military veterans living at home and abroad. Around 25%, or just fewer than 6 million of these proud vets, served in the U.S. Navy. That was whether at sea or in supporting roles on land.

Navy veterans make up the largest single group of people who suffer from mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos while on duty.

About the US Navy

The United States Navy currently has 315,000 active service personnel backed up by 107,000 naval reservists. The U.S.N. has approximately 430 commissioned ships, 3,700 deployed aircraft and countless support vehicles. America’s Navy has a large worldwide presence, but nowhere near the enlisted numbers during World War II when asbestos use was at its highest.

No other military department used more asbestos-containing material (ACM) products than the U.S. Navy.

Statistically, more Navy veterans had the amount of asbestos exposure than any other service people. The numbers prove that with their rate of developing mesothelioma. Now, many Navy veterans turn to the courts for proper compensation due to them for developing mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos while on duty.

Asbestos Exposure in the United States Navy

The reason the United States Navy used so much asbestos was because it worked for them. That’s for functional purposes, not for health reasons by any means. Fire was a huge threat onboard Navy ships as well as in buildings at their ports and shipyards. ACM products wouldn’t burn under any circumstances. That immensely improved ship safety, especially when shelled in battle.

Asbestos was a first-class insulator, and it was used everywhere, including:

  • Naval vessels
  • Mess halls
  • Barracks
  • Navy family housing

Naval architects and engineers specified asbestos additives to strengthen products and reduce their weight. Asbestos wouldn’t rust which was great for saltwater applications. ACM didn’t conduct electricity and stayed chemically stable when added with other substances. And asbestos was cheap, plentiful and easy to use.

Asbestos products showed up everywhere in the U.S. Navy from the pre-World War II years until the early 1980s. Medical experts within the Department of the Navy repeatedly warned their high command that asbestos exposure was seriously dangerous to the long-term health of naval personnel who worked in asbestos-contaminated conditions.

By the later 20th-century, this evidence was impossible to contain given the number of U.S. Navy veterans who developed mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos is such a dangerous material because of how these tiny fibers behave inside the body. Asbestos is a glassy silicate mineral that can’t break down or be expelled once inhaled. Airborne asbestos particles enter the lungs and spear into the lung tissue. Eventually, these sharp shards progress through to the lungs’ lining. Scar tissue slowly builds up and eventually turns into cancerous mesothelioma. This can take 10-50 years to occur.

The end of asbestos-containing material (ACM)

The Navy stopped using ACM in the 80s and began removing asbestos from ships, dockyards and naval base buildings. Most of the old asbestos products are now gone or sufficiently contained to prevent accidental discharge of airborne asbestos fibers. Unfortunately, many navy veterans once worked in high-risk asbestos areas with unstable ACM products.

Navy High-Risk Asbestos Exposure Occupations and Products

The highest risk for Navy asbestos exposure was in those occupations that physically handled ACM products. That included those who moved, cut, fit, installed and removed asbestos materials. Technicians and sailors delegated to confined spaces under decks suffered the worst amounts of asbestos exposure. These ship areas were full of asbestos insulation, fire protection and sound deadening. They were poorly ventilated places, and few workers wore respiratory protection.

The highest-risk Navy occupations were:

  • Engine, boiler and propulsion room engineers
  • Firefighters and maintenance workers
  • Welders and metal fabricators
  • Insulators and pipe wrappers
  • Electricians, plumbers, and steamfitters
  • Shipyard workers in general
  • Carpenters and construction workers
  • Drywall boarders tapers and finishers
  • Ammunition room workers and weapons operators
  • Hull service personnel

These high-risk Navy occupations experienced hundreds of assorted ACM products during their military service. Some Navy veterans worked directly with asbestos materials every day of their career. Many had years of asbestos exposure which placed their risk factor for developing diseases extremely high.

The most common Navy ACM products included:

  • Spray-on, batt, loose and rigid insulation
  • Pipe and duct wrappings
  • Welding rods and welding protective clothing
  • Boiler linings and heat shields
  • Gaskets, packings, valves, and hoses
  • Friction products like brake pads and clutch discs
  • Soundproofing products
  • Electrical and fuel line coatings
  • Roofing shingles and fibrous cement siding panels
  • Floor and ceiling tiles
  • Asbestos felt paper and underlayment
  • Cement and mortar powder

Support for Navy Veterans Exposed to Asbestos

Navy veterans who developed mesothelioma or other diseases caused by asbestos exposure have support services. Regardless if a veteran served a short stint with the Navy or a long career, they are always eligible for healthcare and compensation benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). That’s provided their disability was due to military service and they received an honorable discharge.

Veterans of the U.S. Navy have the option to file lawsuit claims against negligent ACM product manufacturers and suppliers. That’s above receiving VA benefits and does not in any way reduce or negate VA compensation and support.

Veterans cannot sue the Navy or American government, however. Generally, Navy veterans have these legal options to explore:

Seeking Treatment for Mesothelioma

US Navy veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma can access healthcare services through the VA Healthcare System. Veterans can be treated for their diagnosis at any VA hospital provided they are enrolled in the VA Healthcare System. Two of the top mesothelioma doctors in the country are employed at VA hospitals—Dr. Avi Lebenthal at Boston VA and Dr. Robert Cameron at West Los Angeles VA.

Mesothelioma patients also turn to Mesothelioma Help Now for VA claims assistance. Our compassionate staff help educate Navy veterans and their families on what to expect following a mesothelioma diagnosis. Mesothelioma Help Now advocates believe that the more you know about the disease, the better you’ll be able to fight the battle against mesothelioma.

View Author and Sources

  1. United States Navy Official Website, General Information, Retrieved from http://www.navy.mil/ Accessed on 07 January 2018
  2. Department of Veterans Affairs, War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, “Asbestos Fact Sheet”, Retrieved from https://www.warrelatedillness.va.gov/WARRELATEDILLNESS/education/factsheets/asbestos-exposure.pdf Accessed on 07 January 2018
  3. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Compensation – Asbestos”, Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/claims-postservice-exposures-asbestos.asp Accessed on 07 January 2018
  4. Department of Veterans Affairs, “I am a Veteran” Retrieved from https://va.gov/opa/persona/index.asp Accessed on 07 January 2018
  5. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Exposure to Hazardous Materials – Asbestos” Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/disability-benefits/conditions/exposure-to-hazardous-materials/asbestos/ Accessed on 07 January 2018
  6. VA/Vets.gov website, Veterans Disability and Healthcare Benefits”, Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/ Accessed on 07 January 2018
  7. Military.com, “Asbestos Illness Related to Military Service” Retrieved from https://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-benefits/asbestos-and-the-military-history-exposure-assistance.html Accessed on 07 January 2018
  8. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Asbestos Fact Sheet” Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tfacts61.pdf Accessed on 07 January 2018
  9. Inhalation Toxicology International Forum for Respiratory Research, “Government and Navy Knowledge Regarding Health Hazards of Asbestos: A state of the science evaluation (1900 to 1970)” Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.3109/08958378.2011.643417 Accessed on 07 January 2018
  10. Mesothelioma Veterans Center, “Mesothelioma and Navy Veterans” Retrieved from https://www.mesotheliomaveterans.org/veterans/military/navy/ Accessed on 07 January 2018

Last modified: June 7, 2018