1. Skip to content

Navy Veterans and Mesothelioma

navy and asbestos exposure
Millions of Navy veterans and veterans of the Merchant Marine were exposed to asbestos during their years of service. In fact, Navy veterans account for a sizable portion of Americans who develop mesothelioma, a life-threatening cancer caused by breathing asbestos fibers. Asbestos was used extensively in the construction of Navy ships and commercial vessels from World War II until the 1980s. Asbestos-related disease takes decades to appear so Navy veterans and merchant mariners who were exposed to asbestos decades ago may only recently have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung or abdomen.

Veterans Represent Nearly A Third of Mesothelioma Victims

Asbestos, a cheap durable mineral fiber, was used so widely in the military that veterans account for 30 percent of all cases of mesothelioma in the United States. The largest portion of veterans with mesothelioma and asbestos-related respiratory disease are Navy veterans. Because of the use of asbestos materials in shipyards, military ships and cargo ships, Navy veterans have a high incidence of mesothelioma.
navy veterans
During World War II and afterward, millions of Navy veterans were exposed to various forms of asbestos that were used in ship construction. Any veteran who served on a military or U.S. Maritime Marine ship with a keel that was laid before 1983 may have been exposed to asbestos.

A Navy veteran or seaman in the Merchant Marine may develop mesothelioma or asbestos-related disease from even brief exposures to asbestos. But the nature of some Navy jobs provided prolonged exposure to airborne asbestos fibers and decades later the veterans who performed those jobs are at greater risk of developing mesothelioma. According to the design of a ship, asbestos was used in boiler rooms and engine rooms below decks where ventilation was poor and asbestos fibers could float in the air for extended periods. Because of its heat resistance, asbestos was used for gaskets, covering of equipment and packing. Asbestos insulation was used in and around machinery spaces, with boilers, tanks, turbines, pumps, valves and other equipment.

navy ship asbestos exposure

The Merchant Marine and Asbestos

Veterans who served on troop and supply ships that operated as part of the Merchant Marine, a Navy auxiliary during wartime, also are at risk of developing mesothelioma. A study of chest x-rays of more than 3,300 merchant marine seamen by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York found lung abnormalities present in a third of the seafarers consistent with exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis, a chronic scarring of the lung. In the study, the highest rate of chest abnormalities was among merchant mariners assigned to work in the engine room where repairs frequently had to be made.

On these pages, Navy veterans and veterans of the U.S. Merchant Marine, a Navy auxiliary, will find general information regarding what you need to know about service-related mesothelioma. If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestos-related disease, an experienced mesothelioma attorney is available for an initial free consultation to answer your specific questions.


  • Share to Facebook
  • Share to Google+