From the time of World War II up until around 1970, many individuals who served in the Navy were exposed to asbestos. Navy ships were designed to withstand great amounts of force, with construction that made them almost indestructible. However, much of this indestructible power came from the use of asbestos in the building materials of the ships. Asbestos is resistant to heat and chemicals and is very strong, making it seem like a miracle material for building purposes. However, the government was not aware of the health dangers of asbestos use at this time, leaving all those exposed to it at great risk for mesothelioma and other diseases.
Asbestos was also commonly used in boiler and engine rooms, as well as other parts of the ship. The tight spaces and lack of ventilation in these areas forced naval soldiers in those areas to breathe in contaminated air. Besides direct asbestos exposure to individuals working in these environments, many individuals also suffered from secondhand exposure to asbestos. Tiny asbestos fibers would float through the air in areas where it was used, frequently lodging into the hair and clothing of Navy workers. They would then take these tiny particles of asbestos home, affecting the health of their family members through secondhand inhalation of these fibers.
Unfortunately, many industries knew about the dangerous effects of asbestos exposure as early as the 1950s. However, many chose not to warn and/or protect their workers. As a result, thousands of veterans who served their country in the Navy are at risk of developing mesothelioma from asbestos exposure that they may not even know they were exposed to. The best hope for individuals who served in the military during this time is to have a complete physical examination and to explain to a doctor, in detail, all military working conditions they have experienced. There is no cure for mesothelioma, but chemotherapy and radiation treatments can help alleviate many of the symptoms associated with mesothelioma.