Asbestos was considered to be the ideal choice to use in destroyers because it was cheap, flexible and thought to be non-toxic. During this time, hundreds of destroyers were made with asbestos, exposing thousands of sailors and shipbuilders to the substance.
Asbestos and Destroyers Explained
A destroyer is a type of U.S. Naval ship used to deliver torpedoes. A destroyer was used during the Chilean Civil war of 1891 and the Sino-Japanese War of 1894, and has been in use ever since.
This type of ship is extremely fragile and contains subsurface firepower that allows sailors to storm a larger armored ship in order to swiftly deploy their torpedoes and get away before being destroyed by enemy ships. They are one of the biggest threats in the Navy.
However, Navy destroyers built between the 1930s and early 1980s may have put sailors at risk of deadly illnesses. This is because almost every destroyer made during this time contained asbestos. Asbestos is now known to cause deadly cancers like mesothelioma.
Fortunately, veterans who develop mesothelioma may qualify for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). They might also be able to get more compensation through a legal claim against the makers of asbestos-containing products.
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Asbestos on Destroyers
Before the 1970s when it was clearly discovered that asbestos resulted in mesothelioma, the U.S. Navy used many different types of asbestos-containing products on their destroyers. It was used for insulation, piping, sheet covering for engines and boiler rooms, and fireproofing.
Asbestos was used throughout practically all areas of the ship, such as pipe and floor installation, cement, adhesives, valves, and gaskets.
At-Risk Military Personnel
Many asbestos-containing products were found in all areas of destroyers, such as the engine rooms and boiler rooms. Because it was fireproof, it was used in just about every area of the ship.
Unfortunately, this means that just about anyone could have been exposed to asbestos and had the potential to develop an asbestos-related disease.
Destroyers also had poor ventilation. This meant that asbestos, once airborne from degradation or even the vibrations of the ship, could be inhaled or ingested by the sailors. It wasn’t uncommon to have asbestos fibers floating in the air for where any sailor could come into contact with it.
Those employees most at risk for asbestos-related disease were Navy veterans who had the job of removing asbestos insulation that had become damaged in the boiler and engine rooms. These were the same Naval employees who had to re-wrap pipes using asbestos paste.
Get a free veterans packet if you were exposed to asbestos on a destroyer and developed mesothelioma. Compensation may be available.
Other sailors most at risk for asbestos-related diseases were boiler room workers, welders and Navy pipefitters on board the ships.
People who worked in the Navy as shipbuilders were also exposed to asbestos. These workers were tasked with installing asbestos and inhaled many asbestos-containing products as part of the process.
Asbestos was both added to and removed from destroyers between the 1930s and early 1980s. Many of these workers were not given proper safety equipment to defend them against asbestos inhalation. As a result, they likely inhaled large amounts of asbestos.
Location of Asbestos Found on Destroyers
Asbestos use has been confirmed by multiple documents dating back to 1946 that indicate that this substances was used by the USS Benner, a Gearing-class destroyer that was in common use after World war II. Asbestos was used on this ship as a replacement for worn deck matting.
There were also memos from the early part of the 1940s that showed excessive asbestos use aboard nearly 50 destroyers of the AD 649 to AD 691 class. These ships were made from deck matting consisting of woven asbestos fibers. These ships also contained insulation made from amosite.
Get VA benefits if you were exposed to asbestos on a destroyer and later got sick.
Asbestos was used around water pipes that contained cold water, as well as asbestos cloth that was used on FO heaters and steam drums.
Testimony was given to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals that indicated the finding of one U.S. Navy veteran who claimed that his collapsed lung was connected to his exposure to asbestos when he worked on the USS Chevalier during the Korean War.
He worked as a gunner’s mate and was required to use asbestos-containing gloves while he fired guns and loaded ammunition as part of his job as a Navy sailor.
This sailor also testified to the fact that there were pipes in his living quarters that contained asbestos, which could have led to his exposure to asbestos.
These pipes often got wet and were friable, sending asbestos fibers into the air as airborne particles. While the guns of the ship were being fired, the sailor noted that asbestos was shaken off the pipes to such a degree that the room looked as if it was snowing inside the room.