Asbestos in the Shipyard: A Fatal Navy Mistake

The Navy Mandate on Asbestos—A Shipyard Gold Standard

The navy used more asbestos than any other branch of the military, chiefly during the two World Wars and the Korean Conflict. Given its usefulness in insulating and fireproofing structures that had to withstand significant heat and possible damage during an enemy attack, asbestos was an ideal material for vessel construction. It was also inexpensive and easy to come by—through its peak usage in the early 1970s, asbestos was being imported into the U.S. by the ton and utilized widely by many areas of the manufacturing industry.

In 1939, the U.S. Navy issued a mandate requiring all new construction to use asbestos-made materials in the greatest capacity possible. Some of the most common materials with high concentrations of asbestos included ceiling and flooring tiles, cement, brakes and brake linings, as well as wall and pipe insulation.

How Asbestos in Shipyards Leads to Illness

Asbestos exposure was reportedly first acknowledged as a health hazard by the navy’s surgeon general the same year that the mandate requiring its usage was issued. Inexplicably, it would take another three and a half decades for that mandate to be reversed into a ban.

Asbestosis was recognized by the navy, according to those attorney general reports, in 1939. An even more serious asbestos-related condition—mesothelioma and other forms of cancer—had not yet been clearly and definitively linked with exposure, though that connection is now well known and undeniable. Up to 90 percent of cases involving a mesothelioma diagnosis are attributed to asbestos.

Asbestos is natural, fibrous mineral. When materials made from it disintegrate (due to normal wear and tear or significant and catastrophic damage), tiny fibers are released into the air as a fine-powdered dust. Bystanders can easily inhale or ingest particles that then become permanently and irreversibly embedded in the tissue surrounding vital organs like the lungs and heart. Over many years of agitation and scarring, this tissue often develops malignant tumors—leading to a diagnosis of cancer.

Compensation Options for Affected Veterans

Navy veterans affected by asbestos in the shipyard are eligible for disability compensation through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, accessible by filing a claim with your local VA Office. Veterans Service Officers can assist with the claim filing process, as can your attorney.

Your attorney can also file a personal injury claim against the companies that made and provided those deadly asbestos products to the U.S. Military. A successful claim will result in a settlement or trial award that can amount to over one million dollars. Be sure to hire an attorney as soon as possible after being diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness in order to preserve your rights to legal compensation.

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