New Research Shows U.S. Government Knowingly Exposed Naval Veterans to Asbestos Risk

January 27, 2012

536872_naval_trio_16.jpgAn alarming new study conducted by the scientific consulting firm ChemRisk found that the U.S. Navy knew of the dangerous effects of asbestos, yet continued to require extensive use of the toxic material in naval steamships, shipyards, boiler rooms, and engine rooms throughout most of the 20th century. This research may help to explain why nearly one-third of all mesothelioma victims are veterans.

The latest report details the significant role that asbestos played in during World War II and the relative economic importance that it continued to hold for decades. Our mesothelioma attorneys understand that asbestos was extremely popular for its heat and fire resistant properties, which were critical during wartime and as the military rapidly expanded. By using asbestos materials, naval veterans were able to rapidly and efficiently build ships at minimal cost. Dangerously high levels of asbestos dust could be found on every naval ship, from pipes, pumps, boilers, and valves to motors, gaskets, cement, and block. Veterans and civilian employees were likely exposed to massive amounts of asbestos while performing a number of tasks, including pipefitting, welding and insulating.

According to the study, cases of asbestos-related lung cancer were diagnosed as early as 1907. In 1935, a textbook expressly documented a causal connection between significant exposure to asbestos fibers and asbestosis, and this connection was further validated by research studies performed by private and government scientists.

However, in spite of known asbestos health hazards, the Navy continued to require use of toxic asbestos materials both on the inside and the outside of its ships. This is particularly troubling given the structural aspects of naval ships, which make them a breeding ground for contamination. Small spaces combined with a lack of adequate ventilation create a dangerous place for loose asbestos dust to gather. Pipes, pumps, turbines, and various types of auxiliary machinery covering naval ships contained massive amounts of asbestos, resulting in a serious occupational health hazard. Not only were thousands of naval workers and machinists exposed to the asbestos fibers firsthand, but their family members and loved ones may have been exposed as well. Toxic asbestos fibers may remain on skin or clothing and lead to secondhand exposure, causing the same negative health effects.

Reports indicate that the Navy attempted to implement safety procedures that would minimize the dangers of asbestos exposure, but their efforts were insufficient to protect Navy veterans from asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. In fact, because mesothelioma can lie dormant in the body for decades, many veterans may not yet be aware that they are suffering from an asbestos-related illness.

The medical community has made some advances in recent years to help victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases. Chemotherapy, targeted radiation and new surgical techniques may help to alleviate some of the debilitating symptoms, but they are not able to cure mesothelioma, and the prognosis is generally very poor once the disease is finally detected.

Our mesothelioma lawyers have experience working with naval veterans and other victims suffering from an asbestos-related disease. We have extensive knowledge of the legal remedies available for individuals and their loved ones who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Asbestos is a known occupational health hazard and the latest reports indicate that the Navy was one of the most knowledgeable industries with respect to the dangers posed by toxic asbestos dust. Unfortunately, the Navy knowingly exposed veterans to the dangerous material and many of our dedicated service members are still suffering the consequences. Due to the government's negligence for failing to provide workers with adequate safety information, compensation may be available for asbestos victims and their families to help cover the cost of asbestos-related medical bills.