Asbestos & The Military

Part One in a Series about Asbestos and the Military – What You Need to Know

When the young men and women of our country enlist in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, they are doing so at least in part because they want to defend our country and make a difference in the world. Whether they serve in a military combat zone or in a supporting role stateside, they know, going in, that their service to our nation may put them in harm’s way.

What these young patriots do not know is that a deadly enemy lurked for decades in virtually every military post to which they might be assigned, whether on land or at sea – a product which, amazingly, is still not banned in the United States. These innocent sons and daughters (now our parents) were unknowingly exposed to a lethal toxin in the form of asbestos products used in practically every facet of military construction in every branch of the armed forces throughout the last half of the twentieth century.

Asbestos products contain microscopic fibers which, when released into the air, are breathed deep into the lungs where they can form scar tissue for years, eventually causing asbestosis and lung cancer or, at worst, the deadly cancer known as mesothelioma, for which there is no known cure. While the lawyers at Baron & Budd don’t ever sue the United States military for a client’s exposure to asbestos toxins, we do pursue the manufacturers of the products that were used in the construction of everything from troop barracks to state-of-the-art aircraft carriers and submarines.

Those manufacturers were aware that asbestos was a known carcinogen as far back as the 1930s and yet, because asbestos was such an inexpensive and useful fire-resistant product, especially in military applications, they used it anyway, to the detriment of thousands of soldiers, seamen, airmen and civilian personnel. In this post we will explore how members of the United States Navy were almost constantly exposed to asbestos in their daily work.

Navy veterans are the most at-risk group for developing asbestos cancer and mesothelioma of all the service sectors, mainly because “fire at sea” has always been such a frightening hazard. Consequently, asbestos was used throughout construction of the Navy’s fleet of vessels and vehicles during World War II and after, many of which are still in use today. Asbestos insulation was used in boiler rooms, sleeping quarters and mess halls, and in all manner of shipboard components, from electric boards in the radar towers and radio rooms to centrifuge units in the sick bay laboratories, from shipboard armaments to the kitchen ovens in which the daily bread was baked.

Admiral Zumwalt
Many of Baron & Budd’s clients served in the Navy, including the revered Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, who proudly served from 1942 to 1974 and died of mesothelioma in 2000 from asbestos exposure he received during his Naval career.

In the 1970s the Navy began to limit the amount of asbestos to which servicemen and women were exposed, but the utilization of asbestos materials throughout every aspect of Naval operations was so pervasive that its application continued for the rest of the decade and beyond, all the way into the 1990s in some cases. And even when the Navy issued directives to its qualified manufacturers to substitute non-asbestos gaskets, rope packing and other materials in the products they supplied, those manufacturers resisted, not wanting to incur the higher costs of more expensive substitutes.

If you or one of your parents served in the Navy in the 1900s and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please contact the mesothelioma lawyers at Baron & Budd to receive a completely confidential evaluation.

Serving your country doesn’t mean enduring a deadly illness without possible compensation for your injuries. You will not be asked to sue the government or the military. We pursue compensation from the asbestos manufacturers who knew of its danger and imbued their products with the deadly carcinogen anyway. The young men and women who entered the military knew that their duty to their country might expose them to peril. But that peril should not have come from poisonous products made by American manufacturers.