Mesothelioma & Veterans

Mesothelioma & Aircraft Carriers

Alhough aircraft carriers are quite large, they are considered to be one of the most vulnerable ships in the Navy fleet. Measuring more than 1,000 feet from bow to stern, aircraft carriers are unwieldy and often difficult to maneuver. In addition, they often carry minimal armaments since their primary purpose is to serve as a floating airfield for fighter planes. During times of war, aircraft carriers depend on smaller, maneuverable and more heavily armed destroyers and destroyer escorts as their primary defense.

Aircraft carriers are also susceptible to fire hazards, carrying hundreds of thousands of gallons of extremely flammable, high-octane aviation fuel. Unfortunately, primarily because of its innate resistance to heat and fire, asbestos was extensively used throughout the construction of these gigantic vessels.

Mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure, is one of several diseases that have affected past aircraft carrier workers. While the U.S. Navy has refused to keep records and statistics on the issue of asbestos disease among veterans, it is estimated that more than 25 percent of all mesothelioma patients are veterans of one of the Maritime Services.


In September 1934, the S.S. Morro Castle caught fire off the coast of New Jersey and nearly 25 percent of those aboard passed away. It was this event that caused the U.S. government to start mandating the heavy use of asbestos on naval vessels.

While many were unaware of the health risks associated with asbestos at the time, some medical professionals were beginning to understand the cause and effect o asbestos exposure. However, the corporations that stood to make fabulous profits from the sale of asbestos products became well aware of asbestos' toxicity by the late 1930s and did everything possible to suppress this information.

The Roosevelt Administration was advised of the hazards of asbestos in 1941, but President Roosevelt was reluctant to disseminate this information for fear that it might cause "disturbances" among war production workers. The federal government did issue safety advisories on asbestos safety to shipyard workers in 1943. However, little attention was given to these advisories by management or workers.

High-Risk Locations

As might be expected, aircraft bays and fuel storage areas were common locations where asbestos insulation was heavily used. Regardless of the type of vessel, the greatest amount of asbestos was generally used in engine and boiler rooms around turbines, gaskets and valves. Electrical conduits also contained large amounts of asbestos as well. Asbestos exposure was exacerbated by the closed-in environment below decks where air circulation was poor and the fact that much of the work was strenuous.

Challenges for Veterans

Although every veteran is rightfully entitled to free medical care for service-related injuries and illnesses, mesothelioma patients may experience difficulty when trying to receive health care. Much of this is attributed to the lengthy latency period of mesothelioma symptoms, which generally take a couple decades to arise once asbestos exposure has occurred. If the patient has worked in any industrial occupation since his/her discharge, it can be extremely difficult to determine who is responsible for the exposure and illness.

Veterans as well as lawmakers are currently working with various advocacy organizations to fight for the rights of mesothelioma patients and other asbestos disease victims to receive treatment. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), who sits on the Veteran's Affairs committee in Congress and Lieutenant Commander Allen Dutton (USN, Ret.), a liaison between the VHA and mesothelioma advocacy groups, are two such persons. Dutton is one of many veteran advocates who work with cancer victims and groups that are available to help veterans file claims with the VHA.

Meanwhile, naval veterans who served aboard aircraft carriers or any other vessels may wish to contact a mesothelioma lawyer who specializes in asbestos litigation in order to receive compensation. To receive more information about compensation, please fill out the form on this page and will send you a free packet overnight.


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