The Coast Guard, Asbestos Exposure, and Mesothelioma Cancer

The U.S. Coast Guard is unique among the seven U.S. uniformed services. It is a military organization under Titles 10 and 14 of the United States Code, a federal regulatory service, and a law-enforcement agency with the authority to stop and arrest criminals at sea or on inland waterways. First established in 1790 as the Revenue Marine, it is four years older than the U.S. Navy and is the longest-existing maritime force in American history. However, like the Navy and other branches of the military, the Coast Guard also has a long history of asbestos use and its negative effects on its personnel. Because of its fire and heat-resistant properties, asbestos was used in arrays of products, plumbing, machinery, equipment, ships, buildings and barracks. Consequently, there have been several asbestos-related illnesses and fatalities in the Coast Guard, especially those that were serving prior to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) asbestos regulations in the late 1970s.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be eligible for substantial compensation. There is currently over $30 billion in asbestos trust funds, set up for those who are victims to asbestos-related diseases. Fill out our form to get a free Financial Compensation Packet. You’ll learn about the top mesothelioma lawyers in your area, how to get paid in 90 days, how to file a claim for the asbestos trust funds, and more.

Coast Guard flag

The Perils of Modernizing the Coast Guard

Starting in the mid-19th Century, the entity which eventually became the U.S. Coast Guard began using steam-powered vessels. Steam engine manufacturers used several different components that were made with asbestos in order to make their products more resilient and reliable. This practice of using asbestos as insulation or fire decelerator was not a new idea. In fact, the ancient Romans left behind records of both the utility as well as the dangers of using asbestos. However, the prominent role played by the steam engine in the industrialization of Europe and the U.S. was marked by large-scale mining, processing, and distribution of asbestos that was driven by an unprecedented demand.

Similar to the Navy, the Coast Guard operated ships which were built with large amounts of asbestos within their hulls and superstructures. Coast Guard cutters, especially the larger destroyer-sized ships used for long-endurance missions at sea, used asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in almost every component aboard. Gaskets, insulation, steam pipes, boilers, and any part affected either by high temperatures or friction contained varying amounts of asbestos. Even the protective clothing worn by damage control parties to fight shipboard fires had asbestos fibers woven into their material. This was done to protect ships and crews from fires, especially at sea.

However, although asbestos minerals have useful properties, the small size of their fibers and their toxic effects on humans make them dangerous. Asbestos fibers can easily become airborne when disturbed by such activities as repairing or refitting a ship. The fibers can then enter the body either by being inhaled or swallowed. Over time, asbestos can build up in human tissue and cause tumors to form, thus triggering such diseases as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

Again, similar to the Navy, the Coast Guard used asbestos in all its major vessels throughout much of the 20th Century. Many of the high-endurance cutters launched between 1939 and 1980 contained substantial amounts of ACMs, and many veterans were exposed to asbestos for extended periods.

Asbestos Use in Shore Installations

Although the Coast Guard is smaller than the Navy, it has a nationwide network of bases, air stations, headquarters, repair facilities, and administration buildings to support its sea and air assets. Some of these facilities are relatively new and were built with materials that don’t contain asbestos.

However, many Coast Guard shore installations date from as far back as the 1800s, and even those that were renovated between 1915 and 1980 have buildings which were built with ACMs. Asbestos-based products, including flooring material, roof tiles, insulation, and even wiring, were used in berthing spaces, repair shops, barracks, dependent housing, and schools. Under most conditions, asbestos is harmless if it’s left undisturbed. However, activities such as repairs or renovations stir up “friable” asbestos fibers and release them into the environment.

Coast Guard regulations state that “(u)nprotected personnel shall not be exposed to airborne asbestos fiber concentrations greater than 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter [0.1 f/cc) averaged over an eight-hour day.” Health experts have determined that exposures that exceed these levels pose serious health risks.

The Coast Guard also prohibits the use of ACMs except in cases where there are no satisfactory substitutes. This requirement applies to shipboard use as well as to shore installations and aircraft.

Examples of United States Coast Guard Locations Associated with Asbestos Use:

  • Mt. Edgecumb Coast Guard barracks, Sitka, Alaska
  • U.S. Coast Guard, Alameda, California
  • U.S. Coast Guard, 12th District, San Francisco, California
  • U.S. Coast Guard Yard, Curtis Bay, Baltimore, Maryland
  • U.S. Coast Guard ET Shop/ CGES Warehouse Building # 105, San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • U.S. Coast Guard, Mess Hall, Building 39, Alameda, California
  • U.S. Coast Guard, Mess Hall, Building 9, Benicia, California
  • U.S. Coast Guard, Pier 16, Long Beach, California
  • U.S. Coast Guard, Terminal Island, California
  • U.S. Coast Guard, Sebago Lake, Maine
  • U.S. Coast Guard Air Station, Borinquen, Puerto Rico
  • U.S. Coast Guard Air Station, San Francisco, California
  • U.S. Coast Guard Air Station, St. Petersburg, Florida
  • U.S. Coast Guard Navigation School, Groton, Connecticut
  • U.S. Coast Guard, Gulfport, Mississippi
  • U.S. Coast Guard, Loran-A Radar Station: Ocean Cape, Spruce Cape, and  Biorka, Alaska
  • U.S. Coast Guard Air Station, New York, New York
  • U.S. Coast Guard Station, Tybee Island, Georgia
  • U.S. Coast Guard Station, Islamorada, Florida
  • U.S. Coast Guard Station, Panama City, Florida
  • U.S. Coast Guard Station, Yankeetown, Florida

Legal Help and Additional Information

Remember to fill out our from to get your free Financial Compensation Packet, with information on top asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers in your area. Keep in mind that if you have mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be eligible for considerable compensation. For additional assistance, contact us at 800-793-4540. 

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