Almost daily, young men and women throughout the United States make the selfless and life-changing decision of joining the U.S. Navy. And while many of these young people know this commitment may require them to lay down their lives for their country someday, they are often oblivious to the many surprise dangers that may not surface until years after their service ends – namely, the dangers associated with Naval asbestos exposure.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber that was often used in manufacturing due to its insulation and heat resistant properties. Unfortunately, once asbestos fibers are disturbed they can stay airborne for several days. And if the fibers are inhaled during this time, they can lead to asbestos related cancers and illnesses down the road.
Although asbestos use has drastically reduced since the late 1970s, its impact is still being seen today as illnesses associated with asbestos exposure – such as mesothelioma – often do not become evident for 20 to 40 years after exposure.
As mentioned earlier, asbestos was commonly used in manufacturing, and shipbuilding was no exception. For instance, asbestos was routinely used near ship boilers and turbines, and around piping, pumps and wiring.
Consequently, asbestos can generally be found in ships built from the 1940s to the 1970s – meaning Naval sailors serving in World War II, Korea and Vietnam all risked daily exposure to asbestos. This is probably one reason that reportedly 30 percent of all mesothelioma victims are veterans of the military, with past Navy sailors making up a significant portion of these.
The recent decommissioning of the USS Enterprise – otherwise known as Big E – illustrates just how pervasive asbestos is in the U.S. military. Built in the early 1960s, the Big E was the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. According to the Daily Mail, Enterprise measured 1,123 feet and weighed 94,781 tons; although it is unknown how many of these tons were asbestos. The crew of the ship was well aware of the dangers that asbestos on the ship posed – with Emergency Asbestos Rip-Out Teams (EART) being used to safely rid the ship of unwanted and hazardous asbestos.
It is possible that even at the time of Enterprise’s decommission that asbestos could be found in the ship’s insulation and lagging – meaning sailors serving on the vessel during its 51 year run likely had to live with the ever-present danger of possible asbestos exposure.
If you are a Naval retiree who has developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure, you may have several options available to you. For example, you may be entitled to disability benefits through the Veterans’ Administration, or you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, every situation is different, which is why speaking with an experienced asbestos litigation attorney may be advisable.