Asbestos was used in all naval ships manufactured before 1980, and every Sailor or workman who served on these ships were likely exposed to asbestos. This exposure to asbestos on naval vessels is why Sailors constitute the highest percentage of mesothelioma patients compared to veterans in other branches of the service.
Types of Ships Where Asbestos Could Be Found
Over 30% of mesothelioma patients are veterans. Veterans who served in the Navy and Coast Guard have the highest risk of developing mesothelioma because they often served on ships or in shipyards where asbestos was highly used.
Asbestos was found on virtually every ship built by the Navy and Coast Guard and used between World War II and the late-1970s. From submarines to aircraft carriers, sailors aboard faced the risk of asbestos exposure.
You can learn more about asbestos exposure while aboard these ships from our Free Navy Ships Guide.
Asbestos could be found on types of ships such as:
- Aircraft Carriers
- Amphibious Ships
- Auxiliary Ships
- Destroyer Escorts
- Escort Carriers
- Merchant Marine Ships
- Patrol Boats
Get information on:
- Asbestos Location on Navy Ships
- Dangers of Asbestos Exposure
- Veterans Benefits
After learning of the deadly risk associated with the use of asbestos, the U.S. Government undertook a massive effort to remove asbestos from its Naval and Coast Guard ships. Even with this multi-decade effort, veterans were still being exposed to asbestos deep into the 1990s.
Thankfully, today’s ships use non-hazardous alternative materials in place of asbestos.
How Asbestos Was Used on Navy Ships
The military used asbestos in virtually all its infrastructure until the early 1980s. Asbestos in ships and shipyard environments could be found around every corner.
Navy ships had asbestos in:
- Pipe lagging to insulate pipes
- Electrical wiring
- Roofing and flooring tiles
In places with poor ventilation, asbestos could circulate in the air for hours. Being in enclosed areas like boiler rooms and engine rooms for weeks or months at a time increased the risk of breathing in more asbestos fibers.
Mechanics that served on ships were tasked with fixing ship components such as piping, pumps, and valves. This often put them in direct contact with asbestos insulation and parts. Further, shipyard workers had to build and tear down ships. This released large amounts of asbestos into the air.
It wasn’t until the early 1980s that the U.S. military recognized the health risks associated with asbestos exposure.
Since then, the military has removed asbestos from the majority of its infrastructure, though it was impractical to remove all of it. Asbestos still remains in some older ships and buildings, but it is not a health risk unless it is disturbed.
If you have an asbestos-related disease or injury and have ever served on a Navy vessel, there may be veterans’ benefits available for you due to your asbestos exposure.