Why do so many Navy veterans develop mesothelioma?

In several blogs and articles on our website, we discuss the fact that members of the military — particularly those who served in the Navy — are disproportionately affected by illnesses caused by asbestos exposure.

In one article titled, “Naval asbestos causing illnesses even decades after exposure,” we note that nearly one-third of people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are veterans of the military; a significant number of these veterans served in the Navy. This leads many people to wonder why there is such a strong link between the Navy and asbestos exposure.

Broadly speaking, there are three reasons why Naval sailors and others working on Navy ships were so vulnerable to asbestos.

To begin with, asbestos was used very heavily on Navy ships. As this article notes, huge amounts of asbestos were used in just about every ship commissioned by the Navy for nearly half a century. It was used in the insulation, walls, doors and pipes throughout these vessels making it possible to be exposed to asbestos just about anywhere on a ship.

As opposed to other people working near or with asbestos, Navy veterans spent day and night on these ships for long stretches of time. They slept near the pipes, repaired broken parts that contained asbestos and worked with tools and machines made with asbestos. When exposure to asbestos is lengthy and concentrated like this, it can be particularly damaging.

A third reason why Navy veterans are at such a risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses stems from the fact that during the years asbestos was used on Navy ships, people either didn’t know about the risks of exposure or didn’t think it was a big deal. Because of this, there were often few or no protective measures taken to minimize exposure.

The combination of heavy use, concentrated exposure and lack of protection has proven to have taken a devastating toll on the lives of the men and women in the U.S. Navy and why so many claims for compensation and benefits involve Navy veterans.