Asbestos Use in Navy Ships
Asbestos products were widely used in almost every Navy ship from the 1930s to the early 1980s.
The mineral was considered to be superior to other forms of insulation because it was:
Because of these properties, Asbestos was used wherever ships and submarines were made. The Navy used more asbestos than any other branch of the military. The United States Navy maintains one of the world’s largest seafaring military forces.
The U.S. Navy currently has over 325,000 active-service personnel supported by 107,000 naval reservists.
Multiple Navy bases are strategically placed across American coasts, and the Navy continuously operates ships in waters around the world. That includes a fleet of carriers with 3,700 various aircraft and a force of nuclear stealth submarines.
The U.S. Navy’s ship complement is far smaller today than during its peak period. At the end of World War II, the American Navy recorded an inventory of over 6,700 ships of all sizes. Most were decommissioned post-war and either converted to merchant marine vessels or sold as scrap.
Navy shipbuilding expanded seventeen-fold from 1939 to 1945. The American war contribution in Atlantic and Pacific theaters demanded that military and civilian supply ships be constructed at a frantic rate.
Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma Risk
Asbestos in Navy ships was just about everywhere. Due to poor air circulation and small compartments on ships, those aboard had a high risk of inhaling asbestos fibers.
When disturbed, asbestos can become airborne for hours. The fibers can stick to the clothing, hair, or skin of anyone nearby. This is how Navy service members spread asbestos to other parts of ships and barracks.
Once asbestos fibers are inhaled, they become lodged in the lungs. This can lead to mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and other diseases later in life.
It can take 20-50 years for mesothelioma symptoms to occur after asbestos exposure, so veterans who were exposed decades ago are only now developing mesothelioma.