Veterans Exposed to Asbestos

Navy ShipsAsbestos On U.S. Navy Ships

Throughout most of the 20th Century, asbestos-containing materials were used on Navy ships for the insulation and fireproof qualities.  Although engine and boiler rooms typically had the highest concentrations of asbestos, no area aboard ship was considered safe from asbestos fibers.

Pipes aboard ships were insulated with asbestos, often running through crew compartments and sleeping quarters.  Spray asbestos was also used for fireproofing and many engine components contained asbestos gaskets, packing, and other components.

Unfortunately, because the dangers of asbestos were concealed by the manufacturers of those products for decades, crew members were often exposed while performing routine maintenance tasks or while the ships were being repaired in dry dock.  Although asbestos fibers did not respect job classifications, personnel most commonly exposed include:

  • Boilermen
  • Enginemen
  • Firemen
  • Machinist Mates
  • Shipfiters
  • Pipefitters
  • Electrician's Mates
  • Seabees (combat construction)


Navy personnel working in the boiler room.

Navy personnel working in the boiler room.


Health Effects of Asbestos Exposure

In 1939, a Navy Surgeon General's annual report titled "Hazards of Asbestosis," outlined the dangers of exposure to asbestos at the New York Navy Yard.  Unfortunately, despite the emerging evidence of long-term health problems caused by exposure to asbestos, those concerns were overshadowed by the start of World War II.  After the war, the health concerns associated with exposure to asbestos once again rose to the forefront.

In the 1960s and 1970s, strong efforts were undertaken by the medical and safety communities to identify and prevent various forms of occupational disease associated with asbestos.  In 1964 Dr. Irving J. Selikoff published his article “Asbestos Exposure and Neoplasia” in the Journal of the American Medical Association in which he observed, “Asbestos exposure in industry will not be limited to the particular craft that utilizes the material.  The floating fibers do not respect job classifications.”

Finally, in the early 1970's, the Navy stopped equipping new ships with asbestos-containing materials.  However, decades of construction, demolition, repair or renovation of ships - or naval buildings on land - exposed millions of sailors, marines and soldiers to the harmful effects of asbestos.


Navy sleeping quarters - note asbestos pipes.

Navy sleeping quarters - note asbestos pipes.


The health effects of exposure to asbestos are well documented and include asbestosis, a scarring of the lungs, as well as lung cancer and mesothelioma.  Although debate continues to reign with regard to levels of exposure necessary to cause asbestosis, it is well established that from a carcinogenic standpoint their is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.  Similarly, it is also widely recognized in the medical literature that one need not have underlying asbestosis in order to develop an asbestos-related cancer.

Additional Information

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SAMMONS & BERRY, P.C., represents veterans in asbestos claims ACROSS THE COUNTRY.  Our lawyers, paralegals, and other professionals are experienced in evaluating, investigating, negotiating and trying these difficult cases.  If you or family member were exposed to asbestos while serving in the military – call or email us for a FREE case evaluation.  Our team of experienced attorneys will review the facts in your case and answer any questions you may have.