U.S. Navy veterans serving from World War II through Vietnam faced a toxic threat from the asbestos aboard their own ships. Many decades later that exposure surfaced in the form of asbestos-related diseases. Of the 2,500 to 3,000 Americans diagnosed annually with malignant mesothelioma, a significant percentage of those individuals served in the U.S. Navy. Still more veterans may suffer from asbestos-related lung cancer.
From the 1940s through the 1970s, asbestos was used in virtually every area of naval ships in hundreds of applications including: fireproofing, steam lines, pumps, boilers, condensers, evaporators, distillers, turbines, deck material, and electrical equipment. Veterans who served below deck such as machinist mates and fireman are at particular risk for the development of asbestos-related diseases.
Aircraft mechanics also had exposure from performing brake repairs on certain military aircraft as well as in the engine and exhaust systems of certain planes. Similarly, motor pool mechanics from the 1940s through the 1970s may have had exposure to asbestos performing brake jobs and other maintenance work on jeeps, trucks and other equipment.
Both lung cancer and mesothelioma develop 30, 40, 50 years, or longer after an individual was exposed to asbestos. So, even though asbestos was finally removed from most active naval vessels by the 1980s, service men and women who served decades ago are being diagnosed today with these deadly cancers.
If you served in these occupations you should inform your doctor that you were likely exposed to asbestos while serving in the military and ask them to monitor you for asbestos-related disease. Diagnosing these illnesses early can truly save your life.
To all current members of our armed forces and to all of our veterans – thank you for serving in harm’s way in the defense of freedom and liberty. God bless you and God bless America.