Known as “greyhounds of the sea,” destroyers are war vessels that were built to defend other ships from short-distance attacks. These highly-powerful ships were loaded with asbestos-containing products, which led to many cases of toxic, asbestos-related diseases.
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U.S. Navy destroyers are high-endurance warships that had an important role in escorting larger vessels. Originally created in the 19th century, destroyers were once used as defense boats against torpedoes.
By the beginning of the 21st century, destroyers evolved into the heaviest vessel for combat use in the United States.
Just before World War II began, destroyers were known as light-weight vessels compared to other larger and heavier ships. During this time, destroyers were primarily used, along with single destroyer tenders, to check on unattended ocean activities and operations.
When World War II ended, destroyers were used for combat roles that were once given to cruisers and battleships.
In turn, the military developed destroyers into bigger, stronger guided-missile vessels that became more capable of taking on independent operations. These types of destroyers, such as the Arleigh Burke-class, weigh around 9,200 tons and extend more than 500 feet.
Destroyers and Asbestos Use
Before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed strict regulations on asbestos use in the late 1970s, the military used more than 250 asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) to construct vessels.
AMCs were used heavily in destroyers and used in excess by the military due to its affordability, ease of use, and strong resistance to heat and fire.
Destroyers were created with asbestos insulation, and asbestos-containing products and mixtures inside engine rooms, boiler rooms, pipes, gaskets, ceilings, flooring, and more.
Workers who helped construct destroyers or repair destroyers worked around asbestos fibers each day they went into work. Repair workers were especially at risk since they had to tear out old parts, which resulted in the asbestos becoming airborne.
Microscopic, odorless asbestos fibers permeated throughout the work area and were easily inhaled and ingested.
A Veteran’s Experience
In one incident, a Navy veteran who once worked aboard the USS Chevalier, a Fletcher-class destroyer, during the Korean War, developed a collapsed lung after being around asbestos aboard the vessel.
The veteran testified to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals that although he was required to wear asbestos gloves while shooting his firearm and loading it with ammunition, he received no other type of protective gear while aboard the ship.
Further, the veteran testified that while in his sleeping quarters, he slept around many pipes that were constructed with asbestos-containing products.
Additionally, when he fired his gun, asbestos would shake and become loose from the pipes and spread throughout his living area. The veteran also indicated that there was so much airborne asbestos that it looked liked it was snowing inside the vessel.
Evidence of Asbestos Use On Destroyers
Numerous archived military memos and documents show evidence of excessive asbestos use on destroyers.
Confirmed asbestos use was present, according to the documents, in at least 42 destroyers. Asbestos was found in insulation, pipes, the matting on decks, heaters, steam drums, and more.
No Protective Gear
Since the military didn’t require workers to wear protective masks or protective clothing while working, a myriad of Navy veterans are now at risk of developing life-threatening asbestos-related diseases.
Spouses and children of Navy veterans are also at risk. Since no protective gear was worn, workers would typically go home in work clothes that were littered with asbestos fibers.
Asbestos fibers were also in many workers’ hair and skin. The fibers would then transfer into the family home, putting loved ones at risk of illnesses via second-hand exposure.
Additional Help and Resources for Veterans
If you’ve been injured by mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, keep in mind that there is a good chance that you’ll qualify for considerable compensation. Remember to fill out our form to get your free Financial Compensation Packet, with information on experienced asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers in your area. If you have questions or need additional assistance, contact us at 800-793-4540.
Page Reviewed and Edited by Mesothelioma Attorney Paul Danziger
Paul Danziger grew up in Houston, Texas and earned a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. For over 25 years years he has focused on representing mesothelioma cancer victims and others hurt by asbestos exposure. Paul and his law firm have represented thousands of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, recovering significant compensation for injured clients. Every client is extremely important to Paul and he will take every call from clients who want to speak with him. Paul and his law firm handle mesothelioma cases throughout the United States.