They donned their uniforms, shined their shoes, and went to work ready to do whatever it took to protect the nation from all threats, during times of war and times of peace. Whether their part in the effort involved riveting the hull of the submarine or commanding its helm, these proud Navy men put their duty and their love of country above their personal ambition. Unfortunately, doing their duty may have put them at risk, many years later, simply because of the hazardous working conditions aboard ships and at shipyards.
Asbestos, the mineral material which has a wide array of uses in construction and shipbuilding, was widely used by the military, beginning in the 1930s and continuing until the 1970s. Its most common use in the Navy was as thermal insulation aboard ships. In fact, the Navy actually issued specifications in 1939 which required asbestos’s use in naval vessels, and it’s estimated that approximately 300 products containing asbestos were used in shipbuilding in the World War II era.
Yet asbestos’s usefulness comes at a high price: a cancer called mesothelioma. Affecting the membrane which surrounds and protects the lungs, mesothelioma is an unusual cancer in that it may not become symptomatic until years, or even decades, after exposure to the asbestos. What this means for Navy veterans who served their country in World War II, or in the years following it, is that they may be living with mesothelioma and not even know it.
Mesothelioma is currently incurable, although treatment can be given to slow its spread throughout the body and to ease the patient’s symptoms. These symptoms, which often resemble those of other respiratory diseases like emphysema, can include shortness of breath, a persistent cough, and chest pain.
If you served your country on board a Navy vessel, or at a naval shipyard, you may have been exposed to asbestos and may have contracted mesothelioma as a result. Learn more about this deadly disease, and how it is diagnosed, today.