Veterans who served in the Navy have the highest rates of mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer out of all veterans of the Armed Forces. Those who served between 1930 and 1990 particularly were likely exposed at some point during their service. Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins explore this troubling phenomenon, and outline resources available for asbestos victims.
Asbestos was used to heavily in Navy ships and submarines because of its low cost, heat-resistance, and insulation capabilities. Nearly every vessel that was built between 1930 and 1970 (when asbestos was banned) contained several tons of asbestos in many different applications. Asbestos was used in the tiles on ship decks and in any rooms that needed heat resistance, such as boiler rooms and weapons or ammunition rooms.
One Navy veteran, Kenneth McAfee, recently filed a lawsuit against four companies that he believes contributed to his asbestos exposure while in the service. Among the defendants are General Electric and Crane Co., which manufactured asbestos-containing products that were installed on Navy ships.
It is important for veterans to know that, if they choose to file a lawsuit for the injuries suffered from exposure to asbestos in the military, the case is not against the government. Rather, the claims would be filed against the companies that manufactured and distributed the asbestos-containing products that caused exposure.
McAffee's case in Pennsylvania exemplifies this. In his lawsuit, the veteran accuses GE of selling equipment that was encased in asbestos wire wrappings, which emitted asbestos dust particles. He also accused Crane of selling gaskets, packing, compressors and insulation containing asbestos. The veteran then breathed in these dust particles, and the asbestos lodged into his lungs.
When asbestos enters the lungs, it remains there. In some victims, those asbestos pieces cause cellular changes, affecting the DNA over several decades, ultimately leading to malignant tumors. These tumors begin either in the lungs, or in the lining of the lungs, called the mesothelium. This is where the term mesothelioma gets its name, and it can affect the tissue lining the lungs, stomach, heart or other organs.
McAffee served in the Navy from 1969 to 1991, and worked for three years afterward in a Navy shipyard. Part of his duties involved repairing equipment on these ships, which is where his exposure took place.
Civilians who worked around ship, auto, train, and other friction equipment parts are at very high risk of asbestos exposure as well. A similar case in Pennsylvania recently ended in $1 million verdict against Ford Motor Co. for exposing its workers to asbestos. The victim in this case worked at a Ford dealership where he was exposed to asbestos in brake pads. He ultimately developed mesothelioma and filed suit against Ford.