Maritime Asbestos Exposure a Big Deal for Navy Vets

During their service to our country, soldiers face all sorts of hazards. Members of the U.S. Navy are no exception. They’ve long sailed the seas of the world, in times of peace and in times of war, facing many challenges. During World War II, they were the backbone of the Armed Forces and for the many victories achieved, mainly because much of the war was fought at sea.

Navy veterans of World War II no doubt remember the dangers they faced daily. What they might not have realized, however, was that some of those dangers were right under their noses, often in the same cabin where they caught a few winks whenever possible or ate their meals, sharing a spirit of camaraderie.

From the 1940s through the 1970s, asbestos materials were used abundantly aboard the nation’s ships, and use of the toxic material was at its peak during World War II, when ships are built at an astonishing rate. Because…

  • Asbestos are inexpensive and easy to get,
  • Asbestos was used anywhere that insulation was necessary, not only in obvious places like engine rooms, but also in the walls, floors, or ceilings of rooms where sailors regularly gathered for leisure time, including sleeping and eating quarters.

Those who built the ships during those same decades were also apt to be exposed to asbestos. Tradesmen of all kinds, including pipefitters and steamfitters, electricians, insulators, boilermen, and others – both military and civilian – probably inhaled asbestos while on-the-job. Those making repairs on battle-damaged ships may have been in the worst position, asbestos testing, ripping out damaged asbestos with their hands in hopes of making quick repairs, soon sending these vessels back to work.

Effects of Asbestos…

Damaged asbestos can release airborne fibers that are tiny and sharp, therefore easy to inhale. Once inhaled, they can become lodged in the pleura – the lining of the lungs – or other parts of the body, eventually causing scarring and, occasionally, cancerous tumors known as mesothelioma. Because it is often not detected until decades after exposure, mesothelioma is usually diagnosed in its late stages, making it hard to treat successfully.

Navy mesothelioma victims are many. As a matter of fact, navy veterans have the highest rate of mesothelioma among all high-risk groups. Often, mesothelioma strikes when least expected, stealing the vets quality of life in his later years and often causing death within just a year or two of diagnosis. Though treatments are improving and early detection methods are being tested, there’s still a long way to go in conquering this disease.

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