The Asbestos Navy Connection: A Guide for Veterans
3,000 people will be diagnosed with Mesothelioma in the United States each year, most of them men. A significant portion of those diagnosed will be veterans of the U.S. Navy.
Before the dangers of asbestos were fully understood, the U.S. Navy used excessive amounts of the substance in their operations. Now, we are seeing the devastating effects as our veterans develop this rare form of cancer.
Keep reading for more information on the asbestos Navy connection and what to do if you may have been exposed.
What Is Asbestos?
Before we get into the incidence of asbestos exposure in the U.S. Navy, let’s take a look at the definition of asbestos.
You’ve probably heard of asbestos at some point in your life, but we wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t know much about it. Asbestos isn’t much of a concern to people who have not been affected by its dangerous side effects.
Asbestos is naturally found in soil and socks.
It’s a type of mineral fiber that is flexible and resistant to chemicals, heat, and electricity. For this reason, asbestos was used widely in the production of construction materials, auto parts, and textiles.
Asbestos has also been used in insulation, vinyl flooring, shingles, and siding.
It was used in fabrics that resist heat, car brakes, and to protect hot water pipes. As you can see, asbestos can be found in just about everything.
The reason asbestos is particularly dangerous is that it is so easy to breathe in. The fibers in asbestos are small and separate into tiny pieces when handled or damages. You can’t see them, but you can breathe them in.
These tiny fibers then build up in your lungs and cause various health problems.
Breathing in asbestos fibers over a significant period of time increases your risk for various diseases of the lung including cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
Asbestosis usually takes at least 10 years to develop. If you smoke, your risk is even greater. Smoking cigarettes increase irritation in your lungs, and they have a harder time removing any asbestos fibers you breathe in.
The biggest concern for those who have been exposed to asbestos is the development of mesothelioma.
Navy sailors did not wear any type of protection from asbestos, as they didn’t know they needed to.
Mesothelioma is a serious and rare form of cancer typically only seen in those were exposed to asbestos or those who lived with someone who was exposed.
It affects the lining around the lungs, chest, and abdomen.
Asbestos causes cellular and genetic damage to these tissues that causes the growth of tumors and the development of cancer.
Most who are diagnosed with the most common type of cancer, pleural mesothelioma, do not live more than two years. The reason for this is that the cancer is usually in a late stage by the time it is diagnosed and treatment is started.
The symptoms of mesothelioma often start with difficulty breathing and often take at least 20 years to show up.
Mesothelioma can take as many as 50 years to develop. Therefore, you could have been exposed to asbestos many years ago and still be at risk for developing mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma can be fatal. Treatment is similar to other forms of cancer and includes surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
The Asbestos Navy Connection
Our country would not exist as it does today without the sacrifices made by those in the U.S. armed forces. Unfortunately, a significant portion of our armed forces was exposed to significant amounts of asbestos.
Members of the United States Navy were exposed to dangerous amounts of asbestos and we are just now seeing the effects of that exposure in the sickening of our veterans.
In fact, mesothelioma is so prevalent in veterans that out of all people who develop the disease, one-third are veterans. Most of these veterans served in the Navy.
This massive exposure is unique to the Navy and is not seen in other military branches.
Today, the Navy takes extra care when its sailors work on any ships that might contain leftover asbestos products.
It has removed all known existing asbestos from its ships, but the toxic mineral is still found on some ships. Technically, asbestos use is still permitted if there are no viable alternatives.
Asbestos was widely used in the Navy to fireproof their ships. In fact, they would cover their ships from front to back in products made of asbestos to take advantage of its flame retardant properties.
Unfortunately, doing so exposed everyone on board the ship to asbestos fibers. This practice was so much more prevalent in the Navy than in other branches because of the increased risk of fire on ships and submarines.
The navy also used asbestos based paint on their ships. As this paint wore down over time, it would flake and release asbestos fibers into the air for the soldiers to breathe.
Naval ships and vessels also small and poorly ventilated, allowing these fibers to concentrate to dangerous levels.
The naval positions that have seen the highest incidence of mesothelioma include fire control technicians, machinist’s mates, and boiler technicians.
The types of ships affected include auxiliary ships, cruisers, destroyers, minesweepers, and submarines.
Asbestos exposure also occurred on aircraft carriers. Aircraft carriers are used by the navy to transport aircraft and allow the U.S. to deploy airpower all around the world without needing land bases.
The most unfortunate part of the problem is that the Navy became aware of the dangers of asbestos early on and ignored the warnings they were given.
It is common knowledge now that the Navy became aware of the risks of asbestos exposure in 1939.
The Navy surgeon general’s annual report given at the New York Navy Yard specifically identified the dangerous situation. In fact, the report was so focused on this concern that it was titled “Hazards of Asbestos.”
Those in power ignored the report and its warnings and the consequences are evident by the number of veterans dying from mesothelioma today.
Even after vessels that were covered in asbestos were decommissioned, the sailors who worked on them were still exposed to the fibers. The older the ships got, the more likely the asbestos fibers were to become airborne.
Asbestos was used in hundreds of different ways and over 20 positions within the military branch are considered high risk for asbestos exposure.
Interestingly, increased asbestos use in the Navy is not limited to use on the water. The U.S. Navy also relied heavily on asbestos for use in vehicles and on military bases on land.
If You Were Exposed
If you or someone you live with was exposed to asbestos while serving in the U.S. Navy, you need to take special care to stay ahead of the diseases.
It’s especially important for you to regularly visit your doctor and to tell him that you may have been exposed to asbestos.
The survival rates for mesothelioma are not good because the disease is often not caught until it is too late. Your doctor will perform tests include a physical examination that will check for any unusual lumps in your chest or abdomen.
If he suspects that you may have developed a disease such as mesothelioma or you are experiencing symptoms, he will order imaging tests. These tests, which include X-rays and CT scans will allow him to see any abnormalities in your chest and abdomen.
If it turns out that you have developed mesothelioma or another condition of the lung after being exposed to asbestos while in the Navy, you may be owed financial compensation.
The connection between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma in Navy veterans is undeniable and has led to many veterans being compensated for their medical expenses and lost wages.
If you file legal action as a result of your injury, you are not suing the Navy itself, but rather the companies who manufactured asbestos-containing productions.
These types of cases have a high rate of success. You will have to prove where exactly you came into contact with asbestos during your time with the Navy.
If you are a survivor of a Navy veteran who was killed as a result of asbestos exposure, you may be eligible for benefits through the VA as well.
Contact an Attorney
Now that you know a little more about the asbestos Navy connection in the United States, the ball is in your court.
If you or someone you have lived with was exposed to asbestos while serving in the U.S. Navy and become sick, you may be owed compensation. If you believe you may have been exposed it is important to routinely visit your doctor to be tested.
If you have already been diagnosed with a related illness you should contact a personal injury attorney who will help you get the compensation you deserve.
Contact us for a free case evaluation.
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