After Asbestos: A Brief History of Navy Asbestos Use

The aftermath of asbestos usage in the United States has left an often tragic and even devastating path of destruction for exposure victims. For close to 100 years, between the late 1800s and mid- to late-1900s, millions of people were unknowingly exposed to a toxic and potentially fatal material. Many were exposed at work, while others came into contact with asbestos in their own homes-either from building components used during construction or through a process called secondary exposure.

Life after asbestos goes on with no detectable consequences for many people. But for the small and unfortunate portion that develops an asbestos-linked illness-such as asbestosis, mesothelioma or other forms of cancer-life is never the same again. All of these chronic and pervasive conditions cause significant physical and emotional distress for the victim-and in the case of mesothelioma cancers, death.

There is much information available about asbestos, its consequences and options for legal recourses. To offer victims of asbestos an easy and straightforward guide that is designed to cover a myriad of topics-from veteran exposure and cutting-edge treatment options to choosing a legal representative and taking your personal injury case to court.

PART XI: A BRIEF HISTORY OF NAVY ASBESTOS USE

Although all branches of the U.S. Military used asbestos-made materials for construction throughout much of the last century, for the U.S., asbestos wasn’t just a preferred commodity-it was actually a mandate. Tragically, the consequence of navy asbestos use has been devastating for hundreds of servicemen and women-with navy vets making up the vast majority of those affected. Navy veterans’ mesothelioma, asbestosis and pleural thickening are all conditions caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers inside military vessels and structures.

Supply-Demand Pressure and the Navy Mandate

The sordid connection between the U.S. Navy and asbestos is rooted in the high demands for new construction that began during WWI and grew to its peak during WWII. A pressing need for more and more battle vessels threatened to cripple builders, whose supply chains simply couldn’t keep up with the sudden new demands for building materials and mechanical components.

To remedy this problem, U.S. Navy officials issued a mandate that required the use of asbestos-made products whenever and wherever possible in new ship construction. Within a short span of time, virtually every ship belonging to the U.S. Navy contained an abundance of a dangerous and highly toxic carcinogen-unbeknownst at the time by the thousands of men and women working aboard.

The Who, How and Where of Navy Asbestos Exposure

Because asbestos-made materials were built into just about any part of every navy ship between the late-1930s and early-1970s, it was quite literally everywhere. More than 300 different types of asbestos-containing products were used in ship construction, including:

  • Insulation
  • Paneling
  • Concrete
  • Cables
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Floor tiles
  • Gaskets
  • Valves
  • Bedding components

Because of its prevalence on ships, navy asbestos presented a very real danger for anyone working them-whether in or out of combat. Some of the ratings (a military term for jobs) aboard a navy vessel that fall into the highest risk category of exposure include boilermakers and boiler technicians, as well as other positions stationed below deck where the most asbestos onboard could be found in fireproof and heat-resistant constructions. Shipyard asbestos even presented a risk to the civilians who worked in the facilities where navy boats were built, stored and maintained.

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