Mesothelioma & Veterans

Mesothelioma & Destroyers

Aircraft carriers project tremendous power, as do battleships and heavy cruisers, which also bestow a great deal of prestige upon a navy. Submarines have their own covert and adventurous image as well. However, when it comes to the heavy-lifting and the day-to-day grunt work that makes naval defenses successful, it is the destroyers and their crews that come to light. Since the World War II, these fast, maneuverable, versatile ships, which carry tremendous firepower in proportion to their relatively small size, have been the backbone of the U.S. Navy, and are more numerous than any other type of vessel.

Because destroyers were the most common type of naval vessel, chances are good that most naval veterans who suffer from asbestos-related disease were among the thousands of "tin can sailors" who served aboard these ships between 1942 and the early 1980s, when the U.S. Navy finally ceased using asbestos aboard their vessels.

Asbestos insulation was used most heavily in the engine and boiler rooms, on turbines, around fuel tanks and fueling equipment, among electrical components and of course in ordnance storage areas - anywhere there was a high risk of fire. However, asbestos was used throughout the vessel.

This asbestos insulation and fireproofing came either in sheets or in the form of a spray, which hardened into a protective shell. However, over time, this insulation could start to crumble, which would release millions of these microscopic fibers into the air. In this state, asbestos is said to be "friable." When these fibers enter the lungs, they act like tiny needles, irritating and perforating the soft tissues of the lungs. One result is asbestos lung cancer and another is mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the soft, lubricative lining surrounding the heart, lungs and gastrointestinal tract.

Why Asbestos Was Used

Interestingly, in was not a naval accident but a fire aboard a civilian cruise ship that led to regulations mandating the use of large amounts of asbestos. On the morning of September 8, 1934, the S.S. Morro Castle was traveling off the coast of New Jersey near Asbury Park when fire broke out. With plenty of fuel in the form of varnished wood, carpets and drapes, the entire ship was in flames within thirty minutes. Over 25 percent of the passengers, officers and crew were killed as a result of flames, smoke inhalation or drowning while attempting to escape.

Several months of investigation and inquiries followed. Asbestos had been used on naval ships in limited quantities before, and members of congress had to demonstrate to their constituents that "something" was being "done" - and lobbyists for the asbestos industry saw an opportunity to make fabulous profits. Over the ensuing months, regulations were passed mandating the extensive use of asbestos on all marine vessels.

What members of Congress did not know - and what the American medical community was just starting to realize - is that asbestos was a deadly toxin, and in some cases, a carcinogen. The asbestos industry spent large amounts of money to make sure this information was suppressed for decades. Even when the federal government finally got wind of this information and issued health "advisories" to shipyard operations, the advisories were not taken seriously.

Veterans' Rights

Under the law, veterans who can prove that an injury or medical condition resulted due to their service are entitled to no-cost treatment through the Veterans Health Administration, a single-payer system paid for by tax revenue. The problem is proving that mesothelioma was indeed the result of exposure suffered during service. This form of cancer has a very long latency period - in many cases, up to 50 years - and there are so many industrial occupations in which asbestos exposure posed a major health hazard that if a veteran worked in any of those occupations, pinpointing liability is challenging - and suing a government agency is even more difficult.

Asbestos litigators discover which company or companies manufactured the asbestos products used aboard a specific vessel. This can also be a challenge, although shipyard records generally keep such information on file somewhere. Over the decades however, these companies go out of business, are bought by other companies, or change their names. Nonetheless, skilled litigators have had a great deal of success in determining such liability. Veterans may get faster results by contacting a lawyer who specializes in asbestos illness and liability issues. offers a comprehensive packet to mesothelioma patients and their loved ones who wish to receive information about the disease, treatment options and veteran's legal options. Please fill out the form on this page to receive your complimentary packet.

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