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 played a major role in numerous wars, but the downside is that they were loaded with asbestos-containing products, which led to thousands of veterans and their loved ones developing toxic, asbestos-related diseases.
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U.S. Navy destroyers are high-endurance warships that had an important role of escorting larger vessels. Originally created in the 19th century, destroyers were once used as defense boats against torpedos. 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, including destroyers. Asbestos was 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.
In one incident, a Navy veteran who once worked aboard the USS Chevalier, a 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. He 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.
Since the military didn’t require worker 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, including asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma, and asbestos-related lung cancer.
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 top asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers in your area. If you have questions or need additional assistance, contact us at 800-793-4540.