It became evident many years ago that tens of thousands of Americans had been sickened by exposure to asbestos, and that a large number of them were veterans. Specifically, there is an extensive history of asbestos for the soldiers, sailors and airmen who served in World War II, which occurred when the use of asbestos was widespread and when there were sixteen million Americans serving in uniform. And there is also no question that Navy veterans are at higher risk for asbestos exposure than veterans from any other branch of the service with the possible exception of the Coast Guard.
Asbestos Exposure in the Navy
Every Navy vessel commissioned between 1930 and 1970 was laden with asbestos products, which were used and replaced in such a way that sailors and shipyard workers were routinely placed at risk. Asbestos insulation was everywhere on Navy ships: it was used as insulation for boilers, engines, engine rooms, and piping systems throughout the ship. Asbestos gaskets and seals were used on the dozens of pumps and valves on board ship. Asbestos was used as a fire retardant material in ships’ interiors, in sleeping quarters, mess halls, and on bulkheads separating ship compartments.
Asbestos seals were used for doors and hatches, and in most of these locations the asbestos materials were exposed to the kind of activity that eventually caused them to wear. Asbestos products that begin to deteriorate give off tiny fibers that can be inhaled by sailors working in the area, and that’s what happened to thousands of Navy veterans during World War II, Korea, and into the Vietnam era.
Sailors and shipyard workers assigned to maintenance duty that rebuilt pumps or reconditioned valves, replaced worn insulation or seals, or worked in areas where this sort of maintenance was going on were exposed to asbestos during the course of their duties. Eventually, thousands of them got sick.
Navy Veterans with Mesothelioma
The most serious form of asbestos related disease is mesothelioma, a form of cancer that develops in the outer lining of the lungs or lining of the abdomen. One of the most insidious characteristics of this disease is the fact that it takes forty to fifty years to develop after the asbestos exposure has occurred, on the average. That’s why Navy veterans with mesothelioma develop it decades after they’ve left active duty and moved on to other careers. It happened for far too many veterans of World War II and Korea, and for the shipyard workers who repaired those vessels after combat damage or refitted them for routine maintenance purposes.
Mesothelioma is also a rare disease and can often be misdiagnosed. The most common form, pleural mesothelioma, develops in the chest and presents symptoms that at first are similar to many types of respiratory diseases. VA physicians must either make or accept a diagnosis of mesothelioma before the VA will consider benefits for a military-related disability.
However Navy veterans with asbestos cancer or asbestosis still have the option of taking legal action against the asbestos companies that manufactured those products to which they were exposed. Asbestos manufacturers have been the defendants in hundreds of thousands of mesothelioma lawsuits and have paid out billions in damages. If you are a Navy veteran who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos related disease you may be eligible for compensation. Contact our offices today and one of our attorneys will review your case with you – thoroughly, in complete confidence, and at no charge.