Asbestos on Aircraft Carriers

Quick Summary

Aircraft carriers are the U.S. Navy’s largest warships, complete with a landing deck for planes and helicopters. Though very powerful, aircraft carriers built before the 1980s contained a cancer-causing material called asbestos. Veterans who served aboard aircraft carriers decades ago are now at risk of asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.

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Why Was Asbestos Used on Aircraft Carriers?

U.S. aircraft carriers have been used for almost 100 years and relied on dangerous asbestos-based products heavily from the 1930s to the early 1980s. The government mandated the use of asbestos aboard all Navy vessels because it was cheap, fire-resistant, and a good insulator.

A black and white photo of an aircraft carrier

The Navy didn’t know asbestos could cause illnesses like mesothelioma until this substance had been in use for decades. However, major corporations knew the dangers of asbestos-based products and hid the evidence to keep making money.

Since asbestos-related diseases take 10-50 years to develop, veterans who served aboard aircraft carriers decades ago are at risk today. The link between asbestos on aircraft carriers and mesothelioma is undeniable.

Get a Free Veterans Packet if you developed mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases after serving on an aircraft carrier. You may qualify for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as well as legal compensation.

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Which U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers Used Asbestos?

Roughly 60 U.S. Navy aircraft carriers relied on asbestos-containing products as a fireproofing substance.

These aircraft carriers included:

  • USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72)
  • USS America (CV-66)
  • USS Antietam (CV-36)
  • USS Bataan (CVL-29)
  • USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24)
  • USS Bennington (CV-20)
  • USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31)
  • USS Boxer (CV-21)
  • USS Bunker Hill (CV-17)
  • USS Cabot (CVL-28)
  • USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70)
  • USS Constellation (CV-64)
  • USS Coral Sea (CVB-43)
  • USS Cowpens (CVL-25)
  • USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69)
  • USS Enterprise (CV-6)
  • USS Enterprise (CVN-65)
  • USS Essex (CV-9)
  • USS Forrestal (CV-59)
  • USS Franklin (CV-13)
  • USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42)
  • USS Hancock (CV-19)
  • USS Hornet (CV-8)
  • USS Hornet (CV-12)
  • USS Independence (CVL-22)
  • USS Independence (CV-62)
  • USS Intrepid (CV-11)
  • USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67)
  • USS Kearsarge (CV-33)
  • USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63)
  • USS Lake Champlain (CV-39)
  • USS Langley (CV-1)
  • USS Langley (CVL-27)
  • USS Lexington (CV-2)
  • USS Lexington (CV-16)
  • USS Leyte (CV-32)
  • USS Midway (CVB-41)
  • USS Monterey (CVL-26)
  • USS Nimitz (CVN-68)
  • USS Oriskany (CV-34)
  • USS Philippine Sea (CV-47)
  • USS Princeton (CVL-23)
  • USS Princeton (CV-37)
  • USS Randolph (CV-15)
  • USS Ranger (CV-4)
  • USS Ranger (CV-61)
  • USS Reprisal (CV-35)
  • USS Saipan (CVL-48)
  • USS San Jacinto (CVL-30)
  • USS Saratoga (CV-3)
  • USS Saratoga (CV-60)
  • USS Shangri-la (CV-38)
  • USS Tarawa (CV-40)
  • USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71)
  • USS Ticonderoga (CV-14)
  • USS Valley Forge (CV-45)
  • USS Wasp (CV-7)
  • USS Wasp (CV-18)
  • USS Wright (CVL-49)
  • USS Yorktown (CV-5)
  • USS Yorktown (CV-10)
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You may still have been exposed to asbestos even if the carrier you served on is not listed above as many other Navy ships also contained asbestos. See if a ship you served on used asbestos with our ship database below.

Who Was at Risk of Asbestos on Aircraft Carriers?

Any service member who served aboard aircraft carriers before the early 1980s may have been exposed to asbestos.

Aircraft carriers were poorly ventilated, and if asbestos-based products were disturbed, microscopic fibers could linger in the air for hours. Navy service members could then inhale the asbestos fibers without notice and possibly get sick decades later.

Did you know?

Navy veterans who worked with asbestos-based products every day, like boilermakers, hull technicians, and soundmen have a very high risk of developing mesothelioma.

Naval aviators also had an increased risk of exposure as asbestos was used to make airplane parts like engine linings and brake pads.

Asbestos Exposure in Shipyards

Navy shipyard workers who built, renovated, or destroyed aircraft carriers and other ships also had a high risk of asbestos exposure.

The work done on Navy shipyards forced sailors to take out asbestos-containing products from ships and install new ones, frequently exposing them to asbestos fibers.

Thankfully, if you developed mesothelioma after serving on an aircraft carrier or while working in a Navy shipyard, you may qualify for VA benefits. Our team can get you started right now.

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Where Was Asbestos Found on Aircraft Carriers?

The U.S. Navy used asbestos-based products throughout its ships and could be found in many places aboard aircraft carriers.

Asbestos was used in:

  • Boiler rooms
  • Common areas
  • Engine rooms
  • Navigation rooms
  • Propulsion rooms

It wasn't just the aircraft carrier itself that contained a lot of asbestos-based products. Navy and Air Force planes stored on these carriers also used asbestos to reduce the risk of fires.

Because of this, aircraft carriers may have been hotbeds of asbestos exposure.

Asbestos-Based Products on Aircraft Carriers

vintage photo of a sailor working on a ship

More than 300 asbestos-containing products were used on older U.S. Navy ships. Navy veterans who installed, repaired, or replaced these parts may have been exposed to asbestos.

Learn about some of the most commonly used products below.


Navy boilermakers ensured the boilers ran efficiently and made repairs if needed. These workers spent their days in cramped and poorly ventilated boiler rooms.

Navy boilers were coated with asbestos-containing insulation. As the insulation wore out over time, asbestos fibers were released into the air where they could be inhaled by former sailors.

Pipe Insulation

Pipes carried steam to all parts of aircraft carriers and other Navy ships. These pipes were covered in asbestos insulation, which was wrapped in a layer of felt and then covered with tar.

The felt layer of this pipe insulation contained up to 50% asbestos.


Asbestos pumps helped control the ship’s air conditioning. Bilge pumps, which removed water that seeped into the carrier, were also coated with asbestos.


Asbestos allowed valves, which controlled the flow of fluids and gasses on aircraft carriers, to resist pressure and corrosion.

Other Asbestos-Containing Products

So many asbestos-based parts were used aboard Navy aircraft carriers that exposure was hard to avoid.

Asbestos could be found in:

  • Adhesives
  • Aggregate mixers
  • Block insulation
  • Cables
  • Capacitors
  • Deck covering materials
  • Gaskets
  • Grinders
  • Packing materials
  • Paneling
  • Tubes
  • Other ship parts

Our team can help you access VA benefits and financial compensation for mesothelioma. Chat with our team now to get started.

Does the Military Still Use Asbestos on Aircraft Carriers?

The Navy does not use asbestos when building its aircraft carriers or other ships today. Steps were also taken to remove asbestos-based products from its ships once the mineral’s dangers were widely known.

That said, some older aircraft carriers may still contain asbestos today. It was not feasible for the Navy to remove all of the asbestos since each ship contained tons of it.

Unless asbestos-based products are damaged or disturbed, they do not pose an immediate threat.

Three aircraft carriers built with asbestos are still used by the Navy:

  • USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70)
  • USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69)
  • USS Nimitz (CVN-68)

Some asbestos-containing ships were only taken out of commission in recent years. For example, the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), which was built with dozens of asbestos products, was used until 2012.

Get our Free Veterans Packet to learn more about the dangers of asbestos in the Navy.

Mesothelioma Veterans GuideGet a FREE Veterans Packet

Get information on:

  • Treatment Options
  • Mesothelioma Specialists
  • Veterans Benefits

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Compensation for Navy Veterans With Mesothelioma

Navy veterans who served aboard aircraft carriers and other ships put their lives on the line to defend our country. Some even lost their lives from combat or service-related illnesses like mesothelioma.

Thankfully, the VA has established programs to help veterans with mesothelioma get medical care and financial compensation.

These programs and services include:

  • Aid & Attendance (A&A)
  • Disability compensation
  • Funeral benefits
  • Treatments from mesothelioma specialists
  • Survivor pensions

You may be able to access VA benefits as well as legal compensation if you served on an aircraft carrier or another Navy ship and now have mesothelioma.

File for VA benefits right now with help from our team.

FAQs About Asbestos on Aircraft Carriers

Am I at risk of mesothelioma after serving on an aircraft carrier?

Yes. You may be at risk of mesothelioma if you served on an aircraft carrier before the early 1980s  since these ships were packed with asbestos-based products.

Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma.

You may be at a higher risk if you worked with or near asbestos-based products. Asbestos was found in insulation, gaskets, valves, and other products used on aircraft carriers.

Some areas of the ship, like the boiler room, used a lot of asbestos-based products to prevent fires.

When was asbestos used on aircraft carriers?

Asbestos was used on aircraft carriers for decades. Between the 1930s and early 1980s, the U.S. government mandated that asbestos-based products be used on all Navy vessels, including aircraft carriers.

At the time, makers of asbestos-based products knew the risks but hid them from the military.

The Navy took steps to remove asbestos from its aircraft carriers and other ships after the dangers became public knowledge.

However, some aircraft carriers in service today still have asbestos-based products on board.

What can I do if I was exposed to asbestos on aircraft carriers?

There are many steps you can take if you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos on aircraft carriers.

First, look out for mesothelioma symptoms (like a chronic cough and shortness of breath) as you age. Symptoms might not appear until 10-50 years after asbestos exposure.

See a doctor immediately if you might have symptoms of mesothelioma — early diagnosis is key to catching the cancer before it spreads.

Finally, you can pursue VA benefits and legal compensation if you have mesothelioma after serving in the military. Both of these options can help you afford cancer treatments and other expenses.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.