Today marks the 246th birthday of the U.S. Navy, which was formed during the American Revolution. Our small yet powerful new fleet set out to disrupt British trade and challenge a navy vastly bigger and twice as old. Though counting just 60 enlisted at its inception, the U.S. Navy now numbers over half a million total personnel, with training corps at 180 universities. Our country’s second-oldest military branch has much to celebrate.
Celebrating and Protecting our Service Women and Men
Honoring our servicemen and women includes recognizing their sacrifices and providing the highest level of care to veterans. Tragically, many navy personnel faced hazards unrelated to combat, in the form of ongoing exposure to toxic asbestos—on the vessels and shipyards they helped build and maintain.
Today, thousands of veterans are battling debilitating and life-threatening health conditions, including asbestos lung cancer and mesothelioma. Military veterans make up the largest group of mesothelioma patients, and the majority of those patients served in the Navy.
The Deadly Risks of Asbestos
Asbestos is an odorless, tasteless mineral fiber that occurs naturally in rock and soil and has been mined by hand for centuries. Workers chip away at minerals such as talc, vermiculite, or serpentine rock to extract deposits of asbestos found inside. The quarried asbestos is then spun and molded into usable forms.
Because asbestos fibers are flexible, lightweight, strong, and naturally heat resistant, it was commonly used as insulation or to strengthen other materials. However, when products made with asbestos are disturbed, whether from installation, cleaning, repair, or removal, millions of undetectable asbestos fibers can be released into the air. The tiny, airborne asbestos fibers can then be inhaled or swallowed. Once lodged inside the lungs, soft tissues, or other organs, asbestos causes lasting and often fatal damage.
High Levels of Asbestos Exposure in the Navy
Until the 1970s, asbestos was a common and regularly used material in the Navy, despite widespread knowledge of its harmful effects since at least the 1930s. By the time the government began regulating asbestos use, hundreds of thousands of active duty and veteran service men and women had been exposed.
More than any other branch of the military, the Navy used asbestos on nearly every shipyard and vessel component, resulting in their higher rates of asbestos lung cancers and mesothelioma.
Asbestos was used on every kind of Navy vessel, from submarines, battleships, aircraft, aircraft carriers, and inflatable boats. At risk were those who repaired and maintained boilers, pipes, and pumps, which were heat-insulated with asbestos; those who constructed and repaired vessels with cables, adhesives, gaskets, insulation, paint, wall paneling, and ventilation ducts made with asbestos; anyone who wore heat-protective aprons or gloves; and anyone who received secondary exposure by simply coming in contact with these workers.
Asbestos fibers have also been found in sleeping quarters and common areas of ships. All that exposure was made worse by the fact that so much maintenance and repair was done in small, enclosed spaces that sufficient ventilation, resulting in intense and prolonged asbestos inhalation and skin contact.
Resources for Veterans with Asbestos Illnesses or Injuries
Our military personnel risk their lives every day. Their battle for safety should not be fought at home, and not because of safety or regulation failures. If you or a loved one is suffering from the harmful and lasting effects of asbestos exposure during service in the Navy, know that there are resources available to support your medical care and your legal options.
Start by checking with your local VA office about your veteran healthcare benefits, disability, or pension. You can also inquire about possible benefits for your dependents.
In some cases, veterans or their families can file personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits. Asbestos and mesothelioma trusts were established by negligent companies prior to their bankruptcy, specifically to compensate victims and their families. More than $30 billion in funds have been set aside.
A skilled and seasoned attorney can help you understand your options for holding product manufacturers accountable and receiving the compensation you deserve. Healthcare expenses, lost wages, or funeral expenses shouldn’t be a burden to those harmed by asbestos while serving their country. In 2015, one Navy veteran’s widow received a settlement of $11.5 million from the asbestos company found liable for her husband’s exposure. His death two years prior from mesothelioma was a deep tragedy, to which corporate accountability will hopefully bring a small measure of peace.
Finding Reasons to Celebrate
Today, we encourage everyone to reach out to a veteran. Small gestures of our gratitude can add up. We can make a phone call, go for a visit, send a card, create a care package, or honor a gravesite. And we can share what we know. Information is powerful, especially if it helps ease the burdens of a veteran or their family.
Our lawyers at SWMW are committed to helping victims of asbestos exposure receive equal access to legal services, and we are passionately fighting for those who bravely fought for us. Contact our team today with questions or inquiries. We look forward to serving you.