Page Updated: June 06, 2019

Ships and Asbestos

Prior to the late 1970s, most military ships were built with of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. Over 250 asbestos-containing products were used when creating thousands of U.S. Navy ships. In turn, most people who worked on or around military vessels were exposed to asbestos and are at risk of developing toxic illnesses. Many have already developed dangerous asbestos-related diseases while others have lost their lives to the toxic set of minerals.

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.

U-550 ship


Asbestos on Ships

Asbestos was used in numerous areas and places on ships. The toxic asbestos was spread out so much throughout ships that it was almost impossible for anyone who worked on or around vessels to avoid ingesting or inhaling the microscopic and colorless asbestos fibers. Some of the common areas and parts that contained asbestos include:

  • Gaskets
  • Packing materials
  • Vessel paneling
  • Insulation
  • Cables
  • Valves
  • Boilers
  • Tubes
  • Adhesives
  • Capacitors
  • Deck materials, and more

Different Types of Ships That Contain Asbestos

Asbestos was used on many different types of vessels of all sizes. Between 1930 until the 1970s, almost all military ships were built with tons of asbestos.

Auxiliary Ships

Auxiliary ships were created during World War I as recreational vessels, but when World War II started, the military began building them to help with war efforts such as stocking up other vessels with food, equipment, and supplies.

Aircraft Carriers

Aircraft carriers are war vessels that are sent out to recover aircraft at sea and launch aircraft from sea. These types of vessels eliminated the need of using local military bases to launch planes.

Amphibious Ships

Amphibious ships are responsible for transporting troops, food, and other supplies, while withstanding enemy attacks during the wars. These types of vessels also helped during crisis situations in World War II as well as today, such as humanitarian efforts and disaster relief operations.


Battleships are some of the most powerful vessels to ever exist. During the wars, these vessels kept soldiers safe and attacked enemies. It was the primary attack vessel during World War II.


Although submarines date back to the 1800s, it was during World War II that these vessels played their most important role of finding and destroying enemy vessels.

Navy Cruisers 

Navy cruisers are warships that helped during the nation’s wars by providing air defense and combat and shore raiding. During World War II, Navy cruisers became the most powerful ships after battleships became obsolete.


Destroyers are high-endurance warships, and the heaviest combat vessels in the United States. Destroyers original intention was to check on unattended ocean operations, but after World War II, they turned into large guided ships with superior firing power.

Patrol Boats 

A patrol boat is a small vessel that served a variety of purposes during World War I and World War II. Yet, their small size didn’t stop the military from using asbestos when constructing them. Numerous asbestos-containing products were used to build patrol boats, leading to veterans developing toxic diseases.


Frigates, larger than corvette vessels, but smaller than cruisers, helped the military with submarine maritime enemies, as well as protection during shipping (POS). Frigates were reclassified in 1975.


Minesweepers are small yet powerful vessels that help the military find and neutralize mines in the sea, as well as help to create safe water pathways for other military vessels.

How Asbestos Affects Shipbuilders and the Military

Many studies have shown that those who served in the military, particularly the United States Navy, are at a high risk of developing an asbestos-related disease. More than 30% of all diagnosed cases of mesothelioma in the nation are from people who served in the Navy.

The time period during World War II produced some of the highest numbers of vessels in history. Workers were expected to build and repair ships at a high speed while keeping costs as low as possible. Asbestos was chosen to use in many vessel parts not only for its resistance to heat and fire, but also for its affordability and ease of use.

In addition to building and repairing ships, shipyard workers were exposed to asbestos by working at a shipyard. Asbestos fibers are thin, odorless, and easily become airborne. Once ingested, these fibers can lodge inside the body and are almost impossible to completely remove.

The military no longer uses asbestos in its vessels, and has since taken precautions and removed many asbestos-containing products. However, older vessels may still contain the dangerous minerals, as safety issues become a great concern when attempting to remove brittle, dried-out asbestos fibers.

Civilians who were contracted or employed to work at shipyards are also at great risk of developing mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, and other asbestos illnesses. Thousands of people civilians were employed to help build and repair ships, especially during the wars, and in turn, face the same risks as sailors and others who served in the military.

Legal Rights For Those Who Worked On Asbestos-Containing Ships

You cannot sue the government for asbestos exposure, but qualified veterans can receive free medical care as well as monthly disability compensation. For more information on how to get started, we invite you to contact us at 800-694-4856.

However, even though you cannot file a mesothelioma lawsuit against the government, you can hold the manufacturers who supplied asbestos to the military responsible.

Many companies distributed several tons of asbestos to shipyards regularly before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed strict regulations on its use. The majority of these asbestos suppliers knew and understood that asbestos was dangerous to humans, but instead of informing the public, they kept distributing it for profit.

Additional Resources and Help For Shipbuilders and Veterans

If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, it’s important to understand your choices, legal rights, and medical options. You may be entitled to compensation for mesothelioma treatments, lost wages, physical pain, emotional suffering, and much more. Don’t forget to fill out our form to get our free Financial Compensation Packet, filled with information on the leading asbestos and mesothelioma attorneys in your area