Military Asbestos Exposure in Shipyards and on Vessels

Unfortunately, U.S. veterans are at higher risk of developing asbestos-related health problems than the general population.

An outrageous statistic: while veterans make up only 8 percent of the U.S. population, a disproportionate one-third of people suffering from mesothelioma served in the military, reports Asbestos Nation, a project of the Environmental Working Group Action Fund. Mesothelioma is an excruciating, fatal cancer caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos, which begs the question: why would serving in the military put a person at higher risk for asbestos exposure?

One significant reason for high rates of mesothelioma among veterans is exposure to asbestos while serving on ships and submarines as well as in military shipyards performing assembly, maintenance, repair and dismantling work on vessels. From the 1930s to 2000s, the components of U.S. military vessels were laden with asbestos products and materials. World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and other veterans are likely to have been exposed to asbestos in these ships. The use of asbestos slowed down in the late 1970s, but older vessels still contain the substance even today.

Danger on Board

Because asbestos is fire and heat resistant as well as a strengthening component, it was added to many materials and products used in and on military ships and submarines. These included, but are not limited to:

  • Block Insulation
  • Pipe Insulation
  • Gaskets
  • Packing
  • Valves
  • Cement/Mud
  • Adhesives/Mastics
  • Floor covering
  • Fireproofing

Sailors on board military vessels of all types were exposed while working in and around boiler rooms and engines. Performing repair and maintenance, especially involving pipe fitting and welding, without modern safety measures and equipment in place, disturbed and released microscopic asbestos fibers into the air. Those fibers circulated at highly concentrated levels within the confined spaces below deck and could be breathed in by anyone in the area.

Outside engine and boiler rooms, asbestos-containing building materials were even used aboard vessels in sleeping and eating areas as well as in navigation rooms, and on steam line all throughout the vessel.

Danger on Land

Naval shipyards across the country were asbestos hotspots for military personnel assigned to build, maintain, repair and decommission the vessels themselves. Examples of yards in which major exposure occurred include:

  • Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California
  • Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard, San Francisco, California
  • Alameda Naval Air Station, Alameda, CA
  • Long Beach Naval Shipyard, Long Beach, California
  • Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington
  • New York Naval Shipyard, Brooklyn, New York

Not only were the servicemen and women who performed shipyard work at risk, but office workers, security personnel, civilian contractors, and anyone else present in the yards could have been exposed.

Seek Legal Counsel

Anyone who spent time on a military ship, submarine or other vessel, or worked at a military shipyard in any capacity, is at risk for mesothelioma due to past asbestos exposure. If you are a veteran or former shipyard worker who suffers from an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis, you should speak with a lawyer about potential legal remedies that could bring financial compensation for the devastating effects of such conditions. Likewise, anyone who has lost a loved one who was diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness should seek legal advice.

The attorneys at Brayton Purcell LLP represent asbestos victims across the nation from their offices in California, Oregon, and Utah.