Asbestos on Minesweepers

Quick Summary

From the 1930s through the early 1980s, the U.S. Navy used hundreds of asbestos-containing products while constructing minesweeper ships for various wars and conflicts. Because of asbestos in minesweepers, many sailors and workers have a high risk of developing asbestos-related conditions, including mesothelioma.

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Asbestos and Minesweepers Explained

U.S. Naval minesweepers are small warships that were designed to counteract the effects of mines laid out at sea during wartime.

Unfortunately, minesweepers and other U.S. Navy vessels were often built with asbestos between the 1930s and early 1980s. While asbestos was considered safe during much of this time, this material is now known to cause cancer.

USS Caine Minesweeper Navy Vessel

As a result, many U.S. veterans who served on minesweepers are now developing incurable cancers like mesothelioma.

It takes 10 to 50 years after being exposed to asbestos for the symptoms to appear, so veterans might not realize their cancer is related to their military service at first.

Thankfully, veterans with mesothelioma can pursue medical care and monthly payouts from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). They can also take additional action to get even more compensation from the makers of asbestos-containing products.

Learn about the options available to veterans like you with our free veterans packet.

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List of Minesweepers That Used Asbestos

Hundreds of U.S. Minesweepers used asbestos for decades. Because asbestos is lightweight, a great insulator, and relatively flame-retardant, it was widely used on ships throughout the U.S. military.

Any minesweepers made between the 1930s and early 1980s may have contained asbestos.

Some Minesweepers that used asbestos include:

  • USS Ability
  • USS Advance
  • USS Barrier
  • USS Bold
  • USS Bullfinch
  • USS Candid
  • USS Conflict
  • USS Defense
  • USS Devasator
  • USS Energy
  • USS Excel
  • USS Fancy
  • USS Force
  • USS Gallant
  • USS Goldfinch
  • USS Harlequin
  • USS Hilarity
  • USS Implicit
  • USS Indicative
  • USS Jubilant
  • USS Kingfisher
  • USS Knave
  • USS Logic
  • USS Lucid
  • USS Mainstay
  • USS Minivet
  • USS Nimble
  • USS Nuthatch
  • USS Oriole
  • USS Owl
  • USS Peacock
  • USS Phantom
  • USS Quail
  • USS Quest
  • USS Redwing
  • USS Ruddy
  • USS Sandpiper
  • USS Seagull
  • USS Tanager
  • USS Triumph
  • USS Valor
  • USS Velocity
  • USS Waxwing
  • USS Widgeon
  • USS Zeal

This is only a partial list. Hundreds of U.S. minesweepers had asbestos on board.

Asbestos Use on U.S. Navy Minesweepers

Minesweeper on the sea

Asbestos was not considered to be harmful at the time that minesweepers were being used and constructed. This material was cheap and very durable and as a result, asbestos was used to build almost every kind of Naval ship, including minesweepers.

Asbestos was also very heat-resistant and lightweight, which made it perfect for insulating boilers engines, and hulls. All of the steam pipes used on minesweepers were also insulated with asbestos to keep the steam from cooling off too rapidly.

Gaskets, pads, cement, pipe covering, and cloth aboard minesweepers all could have contained asbestos-too.

Did you know?

It was estimated that there were more than 300 asbestos-containing products used on minesweepers throughout the 20th century.

Unfortunately, products made from asbestos often degraded over time or became agitated when the ships vibrated as part of their daily function. These actions released asbestos fibers into the air, where they could be inhaled or ingested. These fibers were hard to cough out because of their needle-like shape and they often got stuck in the pleura (lining of the lungs) or peritoneum (lining of the abdomen).

If the fibers were embedded long enough, they will inflame healthy tissue in the body. In many cases, this inflammation led to the development of mesothelioma, a type of cancer that is only caused by asbestos exposure.

Exposed to asbestos on a U.S. Navy ship? Get a free veterans packet to see if you qualify for compensation and benefits.

Who Was at Risk of Asbestos Exposure on Minesweepers?

Navy personnel at the highest risk of asbestos on minesweepers were those who worked in the boiler rooms or the engine rooms, where asbestos was used in gaskets, pumps, and insulating materials.

See if you can file for mesothelioma VA benefits if you were exposed to asbestos while serving and later got sick.

Need help filing for VA benefits?

VA-Accredited Attorney Capt RIANG Eric Hall can help you file for free.

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Minesweeper History

Minesweepers have two different functions in wartime: To clear the oceans of mines so that Navy warships and merchant ships could safely pass, and to clear a path for other Naval warships to fight in battle or launch vehicles used on amphibious warships.

Minesweepers were popularized during World War II, but they have been used in wars since then, up through to the Cold War. Besides the detection and removal of enemy sea mines from the waterways and the open ocean, minesweepers also worked as patrol vessels, conducting various anti-submarine warfare maneuvers.

Almost every minesweeper made during World War II and up through the early 1980s contained asbestos. Get a free veterans packet if you developed an asbestos-related disease after serving on a minesweeper.

Minesweepers were often the first Naval vessels sent out to remove any threats before the larger ships passed to engage in warfare. They were especially used in the protection of aircraft carriers, battleships, and destroyers during war.

Today, there is only one active minesweeper class in operation: the Avenger class. These ships were manufactured using a wooden hull with a coating of fiberglass so that they would be harder to detect.

Help for U.S. Navy Veterans With Mesothelioma

If you worked on a minesweeper or were a part of the construction of these ships before the early 1980s, you were likely at risk of diseases like mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer today.

Thankfully, there are excellent VA medical centers that treat veterans with asbestos-related illnesses. Because your asbestos exposure was service-related, your care will likely be covered under your VA medical benefits.

You may also qualify for monthly payments from the VA and other forms of compensation. Get a free veterans packet to learn more.

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. Minesweeper image retrieved from Naval History and Heritage Command at
  2. Image source: