Minesweepers are small warships used to counteract threats of sea mines. They are powerful vessels and once played an important role for the Navy, but as with other vessels constructed in the past, most minesweepers were built with asbestos-containing products.
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In the military, minesweepers serve two vital purposes for the U.S. Navy: clearing waterways of threatening mines and making water pathways safe for other vessels to launch, land and engage in sea battle.
Minesweepers not only find and remove enemy mines from the sea, but in making safe water pathways, these small yet powerful vessels can also patrol and conduct anti-submarine warfare movements.
In the past, minesweepers were the first ships to go into operations at sea in order to help make other vessels safe as they carried out missions.
When mines are detected at sea, minesweepers have the capability of cutting the mines’ cables and neutralizing them. This process was especially important during wartime.
During World War I, sea mines were dangerous and had the potential of causing a lot of damage during battle time.
Consequently, the first minesweeper was developed by the military in 1917 and commissioned in 1918. Known as the USS Lapwing, its name was derived from the lapwing bird due to its slow flaps and wailing cries.
An additional 521 minesweepers were constructed after the USS Lapwing, including one of the largest minesweepers class to date, the Admirable class, which included 170 ships.
Today there is only one active minesweeper class: the Avenger class. The ships in the Avenger class, unlike most other minesweepers, were built with a wooden hull instead of a steel hull.
Other classes of minesweepers once in commission include the Auk, Aggressive, and Android.
Minesweepers and Asbestos Use
Starting from World War I and lasting throughout the era at the end of the Vietnam War, minesweepers were constructed with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).
The U.S. military chose asbestos products due to its affordability, resistance to heat and fire, and its ease of use.
Regardless of the benefits that asbestos brought the to military, the negative outcome of the toxic mineral greatly outweighs the reasons for using it.
Veterans and other workers who built, repaired, or worked around minesweepers are at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos fibers are thin, odorless, and undetectable, making them almost impossible to avoid while working with and around asbestos-containing products.
In minesweepers, asbestos was used in insulation, cloth, cement, pipe coverings, packing, gaskets, in boiler rooms, in engine rooms, in sleeping quarters, and much more. In fact, according to the U.S. military, more than 300 vessel parts contained asbestos.
Shipyard workers are also at a high risk of developing an asbestos-related illness. Workers who painted minesweepers, installed insulation, carried out regular maintenance, performed electrical work, and worked as plumbers or pipefitters were exposed to asbestos fibers each day at work.
If you lived with someone who once worked on minesweepers prior to the late 1970s, you may be at risk of developing a toxic illness as well.
Many veterans were not given the proper safety gear while working on or aboard minesweepers, and in turn, would return to their family home each night with asbestos fibers stuck to their clothing, skin, and hair.
Second-hand asbestos exposure accounts for numerous cases of malignant mesothelioma.
If you or a loved one worked on or around minesweepers, seek routine medical care and make sure your physician is aware of possible asbestos exposure.
Helpful Resources for Veterans
Remember, if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may qualify for significant 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 need additional assistance, contact us toll-free 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.
- Photo Source: National Archives photo – Scanned from Russell, Richard A., Project Hula: Secret Soviet-American Cooperation in the War Against Japan, Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Center, 1997, ISBN 0-945274-35-1, page 29.