Asbestos Use on Navy Frigates

Navy frigates were built with many asbestos-containing components during a time when the extent of asbestos’ dangers was not known. Asbestos was used extensively in insulation and machinery on these ships until the discovery of its health risks. After the knowledge of asbestos’ danger became widespread, there were efforts to remove it from the United States Navy Frigates, but damage had already been done—hosts of Navy workers had been exposed to asbestos-containing products.

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About United States Navy Frigates

Frigate ships play an important role in the history of the U.S. Navy. Throughout World War II, thousands of Navy staff lived on these ships, in close quarters with asbestos. The ships were essential in supporting patrol missions and other Navy operations. They also guided Navy destroyers.

Frigates functioned chiefly as combatants for submarines but were sometimes used as warships, mounted with short-range guns. Their affordability to efficiency ratio made them valuable players in the United States Military.

Asbestos Use in US Navy Frigates

U.S. Navy Frigates were the sites of widespread asbestos use. It was found in large amounts in the pipes, boiler rooms and engines of each ship. Other areas such as navigation rooms were not exempt. Asbestos’ resistance to heat and fire made it the prime choice for insulation in the boilers, piping and electric fixtures on the ships.

It was also used in the crafting of the hull, and asbestos-containing products could be found in unsuspecting areas of the ship, such as flooring and bulkhead walls.

Although the first frigates were built in the late 18th century, frigates continued to evolve throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, there are over twenty active frigates in the United States Navy. Any of the vessels built before the 1990s were likely to contain asbestos in some form.

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At one time, asbestos was authorized to be on all of the ships and submarines in the Navy. Most frigates were built before 1989 and still contain an extensive amount of asbestos.

In these cases, safe asbestos abatement is not always an option due to the asbestos products being deeply embedded in the ships’ structures.

High Asbestos-Risk Occupations on Aircraft Carriers

Although all those who worked on Navy frigates were at risk of being exposed to asbestos, some jobs came with an even higher risk.


Boilermakers were often required to install and maintain boilers that contained asbestos for insulation. These boilermakers worked closely with the asbestos-containing equipment and in rooms with poor ventilation, making them vulnerable to the ingestion of asbestos fibers.


When pipe coatings were damaged, workers would need to remove and replace the insulation on these pipes. To do so, they had to mix dry asbestos into water to form the new coating. This process released fibers that they could then breathe in.

Pipefitters also had to maintain valves, which involved disassembling them—a task that could cause asbestos to disintegrate and become airborne. Some engineers used scrapers and brushes to remove and replace asbestos gaskets in pumps which would also cause the asbestos to crumble.

Health Risks for Navy Frigate Workers

Throughout Navy frigates, workers of all backgrounds were exposed to airborne asbestos and without the safety gear needed to protect themselves. Personnel in many roles on these ships were exposed, as well as the civilians that oversaw shipyard maintenance and those who suffered from second-hand asbestos exposure.

Although the exposure occurred years ago, many of the health effects and symptoms have not presented themselves until now. If you think you were exposed to asbestos while working in the U.S. Navy, you may still be at risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma, and you should make an appointment with your doctor.

Help for Navy Veterans With Mesothelioma

If you developed an asbestos-related illness as a result of occupational exposure in the United States Navy, there is help for you. We encourage all veterans with mesothelioma to seek the compensation they’re entitled to.

You can file for compensation through Veterans Affairs. To begin the process or for assistance filing your claim, connect with our VA-Accredited Claims Representatives at the Mesothelioma Justice Network today. You can reach our representatives at (855) 214-1555 or send us a private message at your convenience.

Mesothelioma Support Team
Stephanie KiddWritten by:


Stephanie Kidd works tirelessly as a dedicated advocate for the vulnerable and underrepresented. Stephanie worked as a copywriter for an agency whose focus was communicating safety procedures on construction work sites. With her extensive background in victim advocacy and a dedication to seeing justice done, Stephanie works hard to ensure that all online content is reliable, truthful and helpful.

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