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Asbestos in the Navy

Updated: 4 days ago


Asbestos was commonly used in all branches of the military, but the Navy has been especially susceptible to the consequences of asbestos. Any exposure to asbestos can increase your risk of developing mesothelioma, a dangerous form of lung cancer. If you would like to know more about asbestos and the Navy, keep reading.

Asbestos Was Used in Every Naval Ship

One main reason Navy veterans seem more likely to develop mesothelioma is because prior to 1980, every single naval ship contained asbestos. This includes aircraft carriers, amphibious ships, battleships, cruisers, destroyers, merchant marine ships, and all other Navy craft.

Once humans learned about the devastating effects of asbestos, the Navy stopped using it, but the process was slow, so even veterans working on naval ships in the mid-1990s may have been exposed. During this time, asbestos was largely used in pipes, electrical wires, and roofing for insulation.

Everyone Onboard Was at Risk for Mesothelioma

Veterans who worked closely with asbestos are at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma. This includes pipefitters, engine workers, hull maintenance techs, and boiler workers. However, anyone onboard the ship during the use of asbestos has been exposed and may develop mesothelioma. For this reason, even if you were more removed such as a doctor on the ship, you have been exposed.

Naturally, the more involved you were with asbestos, the greater your risk, too. For example, if you were responsible for installing, building, or constructing any part of the ship, you likely sent a lot of asbestos fibers into the air while working. This makes it easier for you to inhale them, causing them to get trapped in your lungs.

Asbestos Seems Harmless at First

Another reason so many naval veterans suffer from mesothelioma is because asbestos seemed harmless at first. Therefore, it was used for many years before people started to realize it could make you sick. As a result, many veterans may have been exposed to asbestos for their entire naval career without realizing the danger.


It isn't until 20 to 50 years after asbestos exposure when symptoms of mesothelioma begin to appear. They include dry cough, shortness of breath, respiratory complications, fatigue, pain in the chest and abdomen, and muscle weakness. Only after symptoms appear do most patients get diagnosed with mesothelioma, and by then, most patients only have a life expectancy of about 12 months.


Depending on your overall health and age, however, you may be able to undergo various treatments, which can improve your chances of survival. The problem is that so many veterans with mesothelioma may not be healthy or young enough to withstand aggressive mesothelioma treatments.

Asbestos Can Cause More than Mesothelioma

Asbestos is commonly associated with the lungs, but it can affect other parts of your body too. In women, it can increase the chance of ovarian cancer, and in both men and women, the chance of developing laryngeal cancer increase with asbestos exposure. Asbestos can also cause different forms of lung cancer other than mesothelioma.


Asbestos can also cause noncancerous problems, such as asbestosis, which causes scar tissue that stops the lungs from fully expanding and relaxing. A lot of other conditions cause thickening or inflammation of the pleural lining of the lungs. This includes pleural plaques, pleural effusion, diffuse pleural thickening, and pleurisy. All can make it difficult or painful to breathe.


Asbestos is great at insulating, which is why it was so commonly used in the military. However, it is also highly carcinogenic, often leading to the dangerous lung cancer known as mesothelioma. If you would like to know more about mesothelioma and what you can do if you've been diagnosed after serving in the military, contact us at the Veterans Asbestos Alliance today.


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