Mesothelioma – Navy Asbestos
Many soldiers who served prior to 1980 are discovering that navy asbestos exposure has led them to a diagnosis of mesothelioma. The War-Related Illness and Injury Study Centers (WRIISCs) were established in 2001 by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide various types of health services to veterans. One of the duties that is included in the agency’s mission is to make educational material regarding possible environmental exposures that may adversely affect veterans’ health available.
In November of 2009, the WRIISC located in East Orange, New Jersey published a pamphlet titled Exposure to Asbestos: A Resource for Veterans, Service Members and their Families that explained the exposure risks associated with military service, especially the Navy.
Asbestos-Containing Material was Widely Used by the Military
As in private industry, the heat and fire resistant qualities of asbestos made it popular with the military for use in:
- Floor and pipe coverings
The Navy used asbestos containing materials in ships constructed before the mid 1970s as well as in its shipyards. The ships had asbestos-containing materials in the engine and boiler rooms, navigation rooms, sleeping quarters, and mess halls.
Navy Asbestos – Personnel Could be Exposed to Asbestos in a Number of ways
According to the WRIISC pamphlet, the following list includes the ways in which those serving in the Navy could have had asbestos exposure:
- Navy Veterans who served on ships whose keels were laid before 1983.
- Navy Veterans who worked in shipyards from the 1930s to the 1990s, as asbestos was widely used in ship building and construction materials during that time.
- Navy personnel who worked below deck before the early 1990s since asbestos was often used below deck and ventilation was often poor.
- Navy Seamen who were frequently tasked with removing damaged asbestos lagging (floor and pipe coverings) in engine rooms and then using asbestos paste to re-wrap the pipes, often with no respiratory protection and no other personal protective equipment especially f wet technique was not used in the removal.
In addition, military personnel may have been exposed if:
- They renovated asbestos-containing structures and/or removed asbestos-containing materials.
- They worked with or handles any damaged asbestos-containing material.
- They worked as pipe fitters, welders, and boiler operators before the mid-1990s.
The Navy Developed a Policy to Eliminate Asbestos use for Thermal Insulation
In October 1975, the Navy implemented a policy change regarding the elimination of navy asbestos for thermal insulation in newly constructed ships. That policy change also called for the removal of damaged asbestos-containing insulation and the replacement of that insulation with non-asbestos material. In addition, any insulation that was removed because of the need to make necessary repairs would also be replaced.
In January 1979 as veterans mesothelioma claims began to increase, the navy asbestos policy was extended to include the replacement of asbestos-containing insulation in high-maintenance areas where repairs would normally occur during the time a ship was in operation. At the time of this added provision, it was anticipated that over the next five years, all shipboard thermal insulation would be removed and replaced except for the percentage of insulation that receives only minor repairs during a ship’s lifetime.