Exposure Situations and Locations

Excerpt from “THE SNIPE’S LAMENT”

“Now each of us from time to time, has gazed upon the sea, and watched the warships pulling out, to keep this country free. And most of us have read a book, or heard a lusty tale, about the men who sail these ships, through lightning, wind and hail. But there’s a place within these ships, that legends fail to teach.

“It’s down below the waterline, it takes a living toll—a hot metal living hell, that sailors call the ‘Hole.’ It houses engines run by steam, that makes the shafts go round. A place of fire and noise and heat, that beats your spirits down. Where boilers like a hellish heart, with blood of angry steam, are of molded gods without remorse, are nightmares in a dream.”

Written Aboard the USS Higbee, DD 806, 1945-1979
—- Author Unknown

Millions of Veterans exposed to lethal asbestos

During and after World War II, asbestos use greatly expanded as the asbestos manufacturing companies helped write specifications for products on U.S. Navy ships. This caused hundreds of thousands of workers and sailors to be unknowingly exposed to dangerous asbestos dust in the cutting and manipulation of insulation products. As a result, many of these men and women would contract an asbestos-related disease decades later.

Unnecessary Exposure

During a 50-year period leading up to the mid-1970’s, the asbestos industry manufactured insulation products that were installed in almost every building, home, school, ship, car, and plane in America. Surprisingly, these manufacturers knew about the long-term hazards of asbestos, but chose to ignore the dangers. It was not until the 1970’s that the U.S. Navy became aware of the dangers of asbestos… too late for the thousands of veterans who became afflicted with asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma as a result of their unnecessary exposure.

Veterans’ lives cut short by asbestos cancer

After their service to our country, most veterans of the asbestos era led lives outside the military. They married, built careers, and raised families; never knowing that their exposure to asbestos while in the military might cruelly cut short their lives. Decades later and near retirement, many of these men and women were denied the pleasure of living out their golden years with family and friends.

No location aboard ship was safe

The wide variety of occupations of the victims of asbestos disease proves that no one was immune — even family members became afflicted. Although fire and engine rooms were most commonly associated with asbestos disease, no place aboard ship was safe including sleeping quarters, mess halls, and navigation rooms. Thousands were exposed to asbestos while working at shipyards and dry docks. Here are a few examples of the type of personnel, jobs, and situations where people were exposed:

  • Boiler Tender
  • Gunner/Seaman
  • Seabee (military construction)
  • Housewife (exposed by asbestos dust on husband’s laundry)
  • Fireman (in engine room)
  • Boilerman
  • Engine Mechanic
  • Shipfitter (First Class Petty Officer, E6)

Naval veterans exposed

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