Aircraft carriers are warships that go out to sea, equipped with a flight deck and the means to launch and recover planes, which eliminates the need of launching aircraft from local bases. Aircraft carriers have been used by the United States Navy since the early 1900s. Prior to the 1970s, however, aircraft carriers were made with asbestos in excessive amounts, placing numerous people at risk for life-threatening diseases.
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About Aircraft Carriers
Although the first experimental aircraft carrier was created in 1910 from the deck of the USS Birmingham cruiser, it was until right before World War II when they were played important roles for the military.
After the success of using aircraft carriers during World War II, the Navy began creating numerous different types of the vessels that would go on to serve major roles in the Cold War, Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Different types of aircraft carriers constructed include:
- CVA (attack carrier)
- CVL (light aircraft carrier)
- CVAN (nuclear-powered attack carrier)
- CVS (anti-submarine warfare carrier)
- CVT (training aircraft carriers)
- CVB (large aircraft carrier)
- CV (generic aircraft carrier)
- CVHA (helicopter assault aircraft carrier)
- CVHE (helicopter escort aircraft carrier)
Some of the more popular military aircraft carriers include:
- USS Kitty Hawk
- USS America
- USS John F. Kennedy
- USS Enterprise
- USS Constellation
- USS Ranger
- USS Independence
A total of 10 aircraft supercarriers are still in commission in the United States today.
Aircraft Carriers and Asbestos Use
According to numerous documents, purchase orders, and military repair logs, there was a heavy presence of asbestos not only while building aircraft vessels, but also during repair work. This continued throughout the 1960s before the military replaced the toxic mineral.
Gaskets in particular were coated heavily with asbestos. Gaskets were used in the aircraft carriers’ feed pumps, condensate pumps, and in tube sheet exchangers. In addition, asbestos was used on vessel floor tiles, casing panels, boilers, insulation, piping, in laundry rooms, in work rags, panels and more.
Asbestos was the chosen mineral in aircraft carriers due to its ability withstand heat and fire while vessels were out to sea. Fires aboard war vessels were common in the past, and the military saw asbestos as not only a strong way to prevent more fires from occurring, but also an affordable and easy option, as asbestos manufacturers created asbestos-containing in abundance and a relatively low price.
In turn, thousand of people who constructed aircraft vessels, repaired them, and/or worked aboard them developed toxic illnesses, including malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis, and asbestos-related lung cancer. People who worked on the repair and maintenance of aircraft carriers are at the highest risk of developing an asbestos-related illness, as airborne asbestos fibers permeated through the air as the workers took parts apart and replaced them.
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