Asbestos in the Navy
From the time of World War II to around 1970, many individuals who served in the Navy were exposed to asbestos. Navy ships were designed to withstand great amounts of force, with construction that made them virtually indestructible. However, much of this indestructible power came from the use of asbestos in the building materials used in these shipyards.
Asbestos is resistant to heat and chemicals and is amazingly strong, making it seem like a miracle material for building purposes. However, the government was not aware of the health dangers of asbestos use at this time, leaving all those exposed to it at great risk for serious diseases.
Asbestos was also commonly used in boiler and engine rooms. The tight spaces and lack of ventilation in areas such as these forced naval soldiers in those areas to breathe contaminated air. Besides direct exposure to individuals working in these types of environments, many individuals also suffered from secondhand exposure to asbestos. Tiny asbestos fibers would float through the air in areas where it was used, frequently lodging in the hair and clothing of workers. They would then take these tiny remnants of asbestos home, affecting the health of their family members through secondhand inhalation of the residual fibers.
Unfortunately, many industries knew about the dangerous effects of asbestos exposure as early as 1950. However, they chose not to warn and protect their workers. As a result, thousands of veterans who served their country in the Navy are at risk for developing mesothelioma from asbestos exposure that they may not even know occurred.
The best hope for individuals who served in the military during this time is to have a complete physical examination and to explain to a doctor, in detail, all military working conditions they may have experienced. While there is no cure for mesothelioma, chemotherapy and radiation treatments can help alleviate many of the symptoms associated with the disease.