Asbestos and Veterans

Navy veterans at risk

Navy Veterans at Highest Risk

Navy veterans have the highest risk of developing mesothelioma in the United States Military. During World War II, Korea and Vietnam, the Navy used asbestos products extensively in their ships for insulation and fireproofing.

Asbestos was relatively cheap and heat-resistant, so the Navy used asbestos for everything from fire protection and insulation in its seagoing vessels to insulation in buildings. Before the 1970s, the dangers of asbestos weren’t known outside the asbestos-containing products manufacturing industry.

A World War Two era battleship.
Man welding seams on hull of ship under construction

Navy Occupations Related to Asbestos Exposure

  • Electricians
  • Engine operators
  • Firefighters
  • Gunners
  • Hull maintenance workers
  • Insulators
  • Machinists
  • Mechanics
  • Pipefitters
  • Plumbers
  • Seabees
  • Shipbuilders
  • Steelworkers
  • Weapons specialists
  • Welders
  • Boiler Technicians

Asbestos Exposure from the 1930s to the 1970s

From the 1930s to the 1970s, the Navy used enormous amounts of asbestos insulation and fireproofing products on warships and submarines. This released a large number of asbestos fibers into the air. Anyone working in or even walking through the space would have been breathing in asbestos fibers. The Navy did not start equipping its sailors with breathing protection until the late 1970s. Anyone working in a shipyard before this time would have had significant exposure to asbestos.

US Navy, New York City, 1963