Mesothelioma information for veterans


The risk for mesothelioma is very real for our nation’s veterans, many of whom were heavily exposed to asbestos during their service in the military. Mesothelioma, nearly always caused by exposure to asbestos, is a cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Scientists are still searching for a cure to mesothelioma. The disease remains dormant for decades, and when its symptoms do appear, the cancer has often reached an advanced stage, at which point it is quite aggressive.

Asbestos Exposure in the Navy

The risk for mesothelioma is very real for our nation’s veterans. This is especially true for those who served in the Navy on board ship. The concentrated exposure to asbestos that many received during their military service decades ago has resulted in various health problems for our veterans, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Asbestos insulation materials were used on Navy ships during World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Viet Nam era. Its use was so widespread that most Navy veterans were exposed to asbestos in some way.

Prior to the 1980s, asbestos insulation was ever present throughout ships—for insulating steam pipes and fittings, fireproofing doors and even for muffling sound between decks. For decades, it was difficult not to be exposed to asbestos insulation on board Naval vessels. Asbestos lined the pipes all over the ships, even pipes that ran just inches above the beds in the sailors’ sleeping quarters. Further, the crews customarily stayed on board the ships during routine maintenance operations, living and working as asbestos insulation was repaired or replaced nearby in various areas of the ships. At times, the crews even remained aboard as ships were completely overhauled for months at a time in dry docks. Even when a person’s job did not require direct handling of asbestos, it was very easy to become exposed when asbestos was disturbed all over the ship during an extensive overhaul.

Navy personnel with the most significant risk for asbestos exposure were those who labored without ventilation in the ships’ confined areas, such as fire and engine rooms where insulation and refractory products were used heavily. These occupations included enginemen, boilermen, firemen, pipefitters, shipfitters, electrician’s mates and machinist mates. Seabees—those engaged in military construction—also received heavy exposure.

Indeed, many Navy job classifications posed a significant risk for exposure to asbestos. Certainly, everyone exposed to asbestos does not develop mesothelioma. But for those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma after service in the Navy, it is important to consider whether exposure may have occurred during time spent aboard ship. For those who performed the following occupations, asbestos exposure was highly likely (the letters following each title signify the Navy’s abbreviation for the job classification):

  • Aviation Fire Control Technician (AQ)
  • Boilermaker (BR)
  • Boilerman (BT)
  • Fireman (F)
  • Fire Controlman (FC)
  • Pipefitter (FP)
  • Fire Control Technician (FT)
  • Fire Control Technician (Gun Fire Control)(FTG)
  • Hull Maintenance Technician (HT)
  • Instrumentman (IM)
  • Shipfitter (Pipefitter)(SFP)
  • Sonarman (SO)
  • Soundman (SoM)
  • Sonar Technician (ST) (After 1948)
  • Sonar Technician (Surface) (STG)
  • Sonar Technician (Submarine)(STS)
  • Utilitiesman (UT)
  • Water Tender (WT)

Asbestos exposure was likely for those who served in the following occupations (the letters following each title signify the Navy’s abbreviation for the job classification):

  • Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (AB)
  • Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Launch & Recovery)(ABE)
  • Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Aircraft Handler)(ABH)
  • Aviation Machinist’s Mate (Jet Engine Mechanic)
  • Aviation Machinist’s Mate (Reciprocating Engine Mechanic)(ADR)
  • Aviation Electrician’s Mate (AE) (After 1948)
  • Aviation Metalsmith (AM)(Before 1948)
  • Aviation Structural Mechanic (AM)(After 1948)
  • Aviation Structural Mechanic (Safety Equipment)(AME)
  • Aviation Structural Mechanic (Hydraulics)(AMH)
  • Aviation Structural Mechanic (Structures)(AMS)
  • Aviation Radioman (ARM)
  • Aviation Support Equipment Technician (AS)(After 1965)
  • Aviation Electronics Technician (AT)
  • Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Operator (AW)
  • Builder (BU)
  • Construction Driver (CD)
  • Construction Electrician’s Mate (CE)
  • Constructionman (CN)
  • Electrician’s Mate (EM)
  • Engineman (EN)
  • Electronics Technician (ET)
  • Gas Turbine System Technician (Mechanical)(GSM)
  • Interior Communications Electrician (IC)
  • Molder (ML, MI)
  • Machinist’s Mate (MM)
  • Motor Machinist’s Mate (MoMM)
  • Missile Technician (MT)
  • Painter (Ptr)
  • Steelworker (SW)
  • Torpedoman’s Mate (TM)

If you served in the Navy in any of these occupations and you are experiencing the symptoms associated with mesothelioma, you should contact your physician for a check-up as soon as possible. Even if you have not experienced symptoms, you may want to ask your doctor about monitoring your health regularly. The prognosis for mesothelioma is best when the disease is detected early. Unfortunately, this rarely happens, because it takes decades before the symptoms of mesothelioma appear.

Should you or a loved one have been affected by mesothelioma, we recommend contacting a good lawyer as you may be entitled to damages to help you through this hard time. And if you’re in the Northwest, one of the best mesothelioma law firms around is Bergman Draper & Frockt. Visit their site today to get a free consultation.