About U.S. Navy Minesweepers
The first U.S. Navy minesweeper was constructed in 1917 and was named the USS Lapwing — after the bird of the same name known for its irregular wingbeat when flying. The job of a minesweeper was to sweep the seas of various mines.
Unfortunately, asbestos was a cheap and durable substance at the time, so it was used throughout minesweepers to insulate and control potential fires. These toxic fibers put everyone on board at risk of diseases like mesothelioma.
Minesweepers were vitally needed, but as with all shipbuilding during this time, there were substantial numbers of sailors and workers who suffered from asbestos-related diseases as a result.
The use of asbestos was prevalent as it was deemed a safe substance to protect against heat and fire. In 1940, the U.S. used 439,000 tons of asbestos in shipbuilding efforts alone.