Asbestos on Cutters

Quick Summary

United States Coast Guard cutters relied on asbestos — a cancer-causing material — until the early 1990s. Coast Guard veterans that were exposed to asbestos on cutters have a high chance of developing mesothelioma, a deadly cancer with no cure. Thankfully, veterans with asbestos-related diseases stemming from military service can pursue military benefits and compensation. Don’t wait: see if you could take action today.

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How Did Coast Guard Cutters Use Asbestos?

A coast guard cutterStarting in the 1930s, U.S. Coast Guard veterans faced a high risk of asbestos exposure since the material was so widely used on cutters. Sadly, the U.S. military did not realize that veterans serving were at risk since the makers of asbestos-based products hid the facts for decades.

Asbestos was considered an important material to keep those on Coast Guard vessels safe. It was an excellent insulator and fireproofing agent. Asbestos materials could be found virtually everywhere aboard Coast Guard vessels for decades.

The following products used on cutters contained asbestos:

  • Electric wires
  • Floor tiles
  • Gaskets
  • Insulation
  • Valves
  • Other products

Coast Guard personnel that worked with or around these products could develop mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses decades later.

Did you know?

While the U.S. military took steps to remove asbestos from its ships and bases starting in the 1980s, cutters built through 1991 continued to use asbestos.

Help is available for U.S. Coast Guard veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers financial and medical benefits to those affected. Veterans can also pursue legal compensation from the makers of asbestos-based products. Learn more in our Free Veterans Packet.

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History of Coast Guard Cutters & Asbestos Risks

A cutter is one of the key vessels in the Coast Guard. Although the Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, cutters may be transferred to the U.S. Navy to serve across the world.

Sadly, almost every U.S. Coast Guard cutter built before 1991 contained asbestos.

Asbestos-based products release fibers into the air when they are damaged or disturbed. Coast Guard personnel working nearby could inhale the fibers, which then stick to the linings of the organs and irritate healthy cells and tissues.

Over the course of several decades, long-term damage from these asbestos fibers can cause cellular mutations that lead to cancer and other serious diseases. This includes mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer, and asbestosis.

U.S. government agencies have reported that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Even a small amount could lead someone to develop mesothelioma or another disease.

Do you or a loved one have mesothelioma after serving on a Coast Guard cutter? See if you can access VA benefits. Chat with our team now.

List of Coast Guard Cutters With Asbestos

Almost every cutter built between the 1930s and 1991 likely contained asbestos.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutters that used asbestos included:

  • USCGC Absecon (WHEC-374)
  • USCGC Boutwell (WHEC-719)
  • USCGC Campbell (WMEC-909)
  • USCGC Dallas (WHEC-716)
  • USCGC Escape (WMEC-6)
  • USCGC Gallatin (WHEC-721)
  • USCGC Ingham (WPG-35/WHEC-35)
  • USCGC Jarvis (WHEC-725)
  • USCGC Mellon (WHEC-717)
  • USCGC Munro (WHEC-724)
  • USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-70)
  • USCGC Pontchartrain (WHEC-70)
  • USCGC Reliance (WMEC-615)
  • USCGC Tampa (WMEC-902)
  • USCGC Unimak (WHEC-379)
  • USCGC Venturous (WMEC-625)
  • USCGC Yakutat (WHEC-380)
  • USCGC Yocona (WMEC‐168)
Show More

The Coast Guard cutters listed above are only a few that contained asbestos. You still could have been exposed even if a ship you served on isn't listed.

Did you know?

The Coast Guard isn’t responsible for exposing veterans to asbestos. The makers of asbestos-based products are to blame as they hid the deadly facts from the military and the general public.

Evidence has come forth showing that manufacturers learned of the dangers that asbestos posed back in the 1930s. When they became aware of the risks, companies actively concealed the facts to keep making money.

Risks of Asbestos on Coast Guard Cutters

Anyone who served on a U.S. Coast Guard cutter built between the 1930s and 1991 could have been exposed to asbestos.

“Routine exposure for asbestos and lead would include working on and berthing in a Coast Guard cutter where there may be small exposed areas of asbestos-containing thermal insulation, a number of torn asbestos-containing floor tiles, and lead dust from lead ballast ingots and lead-containing paint.”

— United States Coast Guard official website

That said, those who worked directly with asbestos-containing products had the greatest risk of exposure. These U.S. Coast Guard workers may not have been given protective equipment as the risks of asbestos exposure were not widely known until the 1980s.

Coast Guard jobs with a high risk of asbestos exposure include:

Coast Guard shipyard workers also had an increased risk of asbestos exposure. Those working in shipyards had to remove damaged asbestos-based products and install new ones, sending fibers flying in the air where they could be easily inhaled.

A black-and-white photo of a shipyard in Virginia

A report found that men who worked in the Curtis Bay Coast Guard Yard between 1950 and 1964 had an increased risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma, “most of which is probably related to asbestos exposure.”

Get a Free Veterans Packet to learn if your time in the Coast Guard possibly caused you to develop mesothelioma later in life.

Mesothelioma Veterans Guide
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Get information on:

  • Top Treatments
  • Best Doctors
  • Improving Prognosis

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Mesothelioma Veterans Guide
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Created exclusively for veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma and their families.

  • Top Treatments
  • Best Doctors
  • Improving Prognosis

Get a Free Veterans Packet

How Was Asbestos Used on Coast Guard Cutters?

Some of the most common asbestos-containing products used on cutters were gaskets, wiring, valves, pipe fitting, tiles, insulation, flooring tiles, and deck covering material.

Certain areas of the ship used asbestos-based products in high concentrations.

Asbestos-based products were often found in:

  • Berthing spaces: Asbestos was used in flooring material and ceiling tiles in berthing spaces. Even the walls were likely insulated with asbestos.
  • Engine and boiler rooms: Engine rooms and boilers get very hot. Asbestos gaskets and insulation were used to prevent fires in these rooms.
  • Pump rooms: Valves and gaskets in pump rooms often contained asbestos. Even the pipes themselves were often made with this deadly material.

The risk of asbestos exposure was very high aboard cutters — especially below deck. Like many other Coast Guard and Navy ships, cutters often had poor ventilation. This meant asbestos fibers could linger in the air longer and more people could inhale the fibers.

The modern-day risk of asbestos exposure in the Coast Guard is lower, but dozens of cutters built with the material are still in use. Paul F. Zukunft, former Commandant of the Coast Guard, expressed the need for new and safer cutters in 2017.

“Twenty-five of [the current Coast Guard] cutters are more than 50 years old, with the oldest being 73… All of them are being monitored for lead abatement and asbestos mitigation. The time to replace this legacy – or perhaps geriatric class of cutters – arrived over a decade ago.

— Paul F. Zukunft, former U.S. Coast Guard Commandant

Compensation for Coast Guard Veterans With Mesothelioma

No service member ever deserves to suffer from a deadly cancer like mesothelioma. Thankfully, Coast Guard veterans who developed mesothelioma after serving on a cutter can access compensation to cover medical expenses and other costs.

Veterans can get compensation from:

  • VA Benefits

    Coast guard veterans may qualify for financial and medical benefits if they were exposed to asbestos during active duty and now have mesothelioma. This includes over $3,000 a month in disability compensation and free or low-cost medical treatment. The VA also works with some of the top mesothelioma doctors in the country. File for mesothelioma VA benefits now.

  • Legal Claims

    Mesothelioma legal claims award veterans with $1 million on average. Claims are never filed against the U.S. Coast Guard or other military branches.

  • Asbestos Trust Fund Claims

    Many manufacturers of asbestos-based products declared bankruptcy to avoid legal claims. In return, they were forced to establish asbestos trust funds to pay those who were harmed. Over $30 billion is available in trusts today and Coast Guard veterans may be entitled to some of this money.

Get Help After Serving on Coast Guard Cutters With Asbestods

Coast Guard veterans didn't realize that serving on cutters could put them at risk of cancers like mesothelioma. The VA has stepped up to help the thousands of veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma every year.

Coast Guard members with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related condition have access to a plethora of benefits. These range from VA disability benefits to low-cost or free health care.

You don’t have to fight mesothelioma alone. Our team — including caring patient advocates, fellow veterans, and VA-accredited attorneys — can help you pursue medical treatments, military benefits, and legal compensation.

Get a free veterans packet to see all the ways our team can help you.

FAQs About Asbestos on Cutters

Why did Coast Guard cutters use asbestos-based products?

Cutters and other military ships used asbestos because the material resisted fire, electricity, and water.

The military used asbestos until it was revealed that manufacturers had hid the health risks of asbestos-based products. Once the truth came to light, action was taken to remove asbestos and keep veterans safe.

How many Coast Guard cutters contained asbestos?

It’s likely that most Coast Guard ships used asbestos-based products between the 1930s and 1991. Anyone who served on a Coast Guard cutter before 1991 could have been exposed to asbestos.

What products aboard Coast Guard cutters used asbestos?

Dozens of products found on Coast Guard cutters may have contained asbestos. This includes piping, floor tiles, wiring, gaskets, and more. Any of these products may have released asbestos fibers into the air, putting those nearby at risk of asbestos-related diseases.

If you may have been exposed to asbestos-based products on a cutter and later developed mesothelioma, help is available. Call (877) 450-8973 to speak with one of our patient advocates today.

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.

  1. Cutter image retrieved from Naval History and Heritage Command at
  2. Krstev, S. “Mortality among shipyard Coast Guard workers: a retrospective cohort study.” Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Retrieved February 15, 2023, from
  3. Lamothe, D. (2017, April 3). 'We Got Left Behind': The Coast Guard's top officer laments being excluded from Trump's military funding. Retrieved February 15, 2023, from
  4. United States Coast Guard U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (n.d.). COAST GUARD CUTTERS CONSTRUCTED PRIOR TO 1991 AND IN SERVICE FROM 1990 TO 2017. Retrieved February 15, 2023, from
  5. United States Coast Guard U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (n.d.). Information for Coast Guard Veterans and Retirees Filing for Veterans Affairs Disability Compensation Due to Asbestos- and Lead-Related Health Effects. Retrieved February 15, 2023, from
  6. Zukunft, Paul F. (n.d.) The State of the United States Coast Guard, Two-Thousand and Seventeen. Retrieved February 15, 2023 from