Mesothelioma & Veterans

Mesothelioma & Cruisers

The word "cruiser" was originally applied to naval warfare in a tactical role rather than a specific type of vessel. This began to change during the first part of the 20th century during the arms race between the various European powers that culminated in World War I and ultimately resulted in World War II.

A cruiser was a long range vessel that usually operated alone rather than as part of a flotilla (a small fleet). Its primary mission was to attack merchant and supply ships over a wide area and far from base.

Cruisers remained in service throughout World War II, but were phased out soon after. Regardless of the type of vessel, anyone who served in one of the Maritime Services aboard a ship was likely to experience asbestos exposure. Inhaling airborne asbestos fibers is known to be the cause of several forms of cancer, including mesothelioma, a rare, aggressive cancer that most commonly attacks the pleural lining of the lungs.

The Safety Mandate

The mandated use of asbestos in sea-going vessels dates from the mid-1930s even though asbestos was used in naval vessels for years prior. In September 1934, the steamer S.S. Morro Castle was on its way back to the port of New York. Sometime during the early morning hours of September 8, a fire broke out in the vessel's first-class writing room.

During the congressional hearings that took place in the ensuing months, the Navy and the maritime industries demanded stronger regulations to protect passengers and crew - and the asbestos industry lobbyists were there to offer a solution.

The health hazards of asbestos were known in Europe for some time, but U.S. doctors were just beginning to realize the hazards of asbestos. However, corporations with a vested interest worked very hard to suppress any and all negative health information related to asbestos and managed to do this very well for several decades.

They were not entirely successful, however. The Franklin Roosevelt Administration received warnings about asbestos in March of 1941, but President Roosevelt himself was concerned that such information might cause "disturbances in the labor element" at a time when the efforts of war production workers were vital to national defense. Nonetheless, the federal government finally issued "advisories" in 1943, recommending that respirators and exhaust fans be used in shipyard facilities. These were not the same as mandates however and were rarely taken seriously.

Major Asbestos Locations

Regardless of the type of vessel, asbestos was most commonly used where there was the greatest danger of fire, primarily in the engine and boiler rooms. Pipe fittings and electrical conduits were also heavily lagged with asbestos insulation, particularly around ordnance storage areas and fuel tanks. In addition, asbestos was used between decks, inside of fire doors, in radar rooms and in and around the guns as well.

Obtaining Medical Care for Veterans

Every veteran of any branch of the Armed Services is entitled to low and no-cost health care services through the Veterans Health Administration when it comes to service-related injury and illness. The challenge for asbestos victims is proving their cancer and/or mesothelioma is in fact service-related, especially if the veteran was ever employed in one or more of the dozens of industrial occupations where asbestos exposure was a risk.

This problem has been exacerbated in recent years due to high demand for health care services and the fact that the needs of veterans have largely been neglected since 2002. Today, lawmakers such as Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), who works on asbestos issues as well as veteran's affairs, and veterans themselves like Lieutenant Commander Allen Dutton (USN, Ret.) are fighting for the rights of former servicemen and women who have contracted this disease to receive the care they have earned through their service to the nation.

However, the fight is ongoing and progress can be slow. Veterans who believe their asbestos-related cancer may be the result of service aboard a cruiser or any other vessel should contact a lawyer who specializes in asbestos litigation. This person has access to research that may be able to indicate the manufacturer of asbestos products used aboard a specific vessel or its successor. Under the law, these companies bear the ultimate liability and veterans may be able to recover the costs of medical treatment not covered by the VA.

For more information about asbestos exposure and compensation, please fill out the request form on this page to receive a free packet.

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