High-Risk U.S. Navy Occupations for Asbestos Exposure
Being the largest consumer of asbestos products naturally made the U.S. Navy the leading employer that exposed its service people and civilian workers to airborne asbestos fibers.
Exposure levels compounded onboard navy vessels. That was due to lack of ventilation in confined spaces below deck and failure to provide workers with personal respiratory protection.
Similar conditions existed in shore facilities. Shipyard and drydock workers constantly installed, repaired, and removed ACM. Their buildings also contained asbestos materials in roofing, siding, cement powder, flooring, wallboard, and paint.
There was no escaping asbestos exposure for many navy veterans.
The highest-risk U.S. Navy occupations were:
- Boiler technicians
- Engine operators
- Hull maintenance workers
- Weapons specialists
Every U.S. Navy veteran exposed to asbestos while on duty was at high-risk for developing asbestos-related diseases. Ten to 50 years can go by between initial asbestos exposure and when a veteran’s mesothelioma symptoms present.
Today, the navy has strict controls guiding asbestos handling. It’s been phased out of shipbuilding and many original ships containing ACM were decommissioned or destroyed.
Unfortunately, many navy veterans now suffer the long-term health effects of asbestos exposure. They turn to the Department of Veterans Affairs for compensation and healthcare benefits.
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Navy Shipyards and Asbestos Exposure
Navy shipyard workers are especially at risk for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. This is because the insulation used to build ships and submarines during World War II and the Korean War were often made with asbestos.
Navy shipyard workers had an increased risk of asbestos exposure. Sailors serving aboard ships in overhaul were also at an increased risk of asbestos exposure.
Much of the work that occurred in shipyards involved the removal and reinstallation of asbestos materials. This released a large number of asbestos fibers into the air. Anyone working in or even walking through the space would have been breathing in asbestos fibers.
The Navy did not start equipping its sailors with breathing protection until the late 1970s. Anyone working in a shipyard before this time would have had significant exposure to asbestos.