Mesothelioma Navy: Mesothelioma and the Navy’s Legacy

The U.S. Navy, known for its strength and innovation, has a hidden problem in its history. Mesothelioma, a deadly cancer from asbestos exposure, affects many veterans who served at sea.

This introduction looks into the connection between asbestos and the Navy, covering its extensive use on ships and in shipyards, the harm to veterans, and ongoing efforts for recognition and support. 

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Mesothelioma and the U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy, known for strength and maritime skill, deals with a hidden foe – mesothelioma. This cancer, from asbestos exposure, affects many sea veterans.

This article looks at the link between mesothelioma and the Navy, covering the disease, who’s at risk, prevention, treatments, and veteran compensation.   

Deadly Legacy of Asbestos: Mesothelioma Navy

Asbestos, a mineral fiber with heat-resistant properties, causes mesothelioma, a rare cancer affecting the lung, abdomen, or heart linings.

Inhaled asbestos fibers stay in the lungs, causing long-term inflammation leading to mesothelioma after many years.

Widespread Use of Asbestos in the Navy

Throughout the 20th century, shipbuilding and naval structures widely used asbestos due to its fire-resistant qualities.

It was used for insulating pipes and machinery in boiler rooms and engine compartments, fireproofing bulkheads and decks, insulating electrical wiring, and as sealing components for gaskets and valves.

Navy personnel across various roles were unknowingly exposed to asbestos fibers:

Boiler room technicians worked near asbestos insulation. Shipyard workers were exposed to asbestos dust during shipbuilding and repairs.

Machinists and mechanics maintained equipment with asbestos. Electricians handled wiring insulated with asbestos.

Who’s Most Vulnerable in the Navy?

Veterans who served from the 1930s to the late 1970s faced a high risk of mesothelioma due to widespread asbestos use. Even younger veterans on older ships or in asbestos-present shipyards are at risk.

Mesothelioma Navy: Symptoms and Diagnosis

Mesothelioma’s danger comes from a long time before symptoms show. It can take 10 to 50 years after first asbestos exposure for signs to appear.

Common symptoms include breathlessness, chest pain, coughing, fatigue, and, for abdominal mesothelioma, trouble swallowing.

Limited Treatment Options

Doctors may consider surgery to remove localized cancer tissue, but it might not cure it. Chemotherapy uses strong drugs to kill cancer cells but has significant side effects.

Radiation therapy targets and kills cancer cells, mainly to relieve pain or control tumor growth. Managing pleural effusion means removing extra fluid in the chest or abdomen to ease breathing problems.

Does the Navy Compensate Veterans with Mesothelioma?

  • Disability compensation: Provides monthly financial assistance based on the severity of the disability.
  • Healthcare: Veterans can receive comprehensive medical care for their mesothelioma at VA hospitals or clinics.
  • Vocational rehabilitation: The VA can help veterans with mesothelioma transition to new careers if their condition limits their ability to work in their previous profession.
  • Death benefits: In the event of a veteran’s death from mesothelioma, their surviving dependents may be eligible for financial compensation.

To get these benefits, veterans need to file a claim with the VA. They must show they were exposed to asbestos during service and how it led to their mesothelioma diagnosis.

The VA offers a website and support services to help veterans through the claims process.

Prevention of Mesothelioma Navy

Asbestos use in the Navy has stopped, but past exposure affects veterans. Prevention is vital, especially in places with old ships or shipyards that may still have asbestos. Here are key prevention steps:

Asbestos Awareness Training in the Navy

The silent threat of asbestos in the U.S. Navy’s history requires a proactive approach to prevent more tragedies.

Asbestos awareness training is crucial to protect the health of Navy personnel. This training gives sailors and Navy staff the knowledge and tools to keep themselves safe.

The Pillars of Asbestos Awareness Training

The training must explain asbestos clearly, including its properties and the serious health risks like mesothelioma.

Sailors should learn to identify asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) at work, using visuals and exercises. They should know where asbestos is commonly found, like boiler rooms and electrical wiring insulation.

The training should stress safe practices around ACMs, like using personal protective equipment (PPE), reducing dust, following proper abatement procedures, and reporting any asbestos concerns.

The training must highlight the importance of open communication and reporting concerns or suspected asbestos exposure to superiors. It should establish a clear chain of command for reporting and addressing potential ACMs.

The training must stress safe work practices when dealing with ACMs. This involves using PPE, reducing dust, following proper asbestos abatement techniques (if qualified), and reporting any suspected asbestos exposure to supervisors.

Open communication is crucial, and training should highlight reporting concerns or suspected asbestos exposure to superiors.

It’s important to establish a clear chain of command for reporting and addressing potential ACMs.

Tailored Training for Different Roles

Shipboard personnel, such as sailors in engine rooms or doing maintenance, need thorough training on spotting ACMs and using safe practices in their work areas.

Shipyard workers, especially those in repairs or construction, face high risks. They should get training on advanced asbestos identification and strict safety measures for asbestos removal.

Supervisors play a crucial role in team safety. Their training should cover asbestos rules, hazard assessments, and what to do if there’s suspected exposure.

Ongoing Education and Reinforcement

Asbestos awareness training must happen regularly, not just once. This ensures people remember the information and stay cautious.

It’s also important to include asbestos awareness in safety briefings and hazard plans for maintenance or repair tasks to keep safe practices in mind.

Building a Culture of Safety in Mesothelioma Navy

Effective asbestos awareness training doesn’t just share information. It builds a safety culture in the Navy. This means sailors should feel confident reporting asbestos dangers, and supervisors should focus on safety rules.

Prioritizing prevention and raising awareness can greatly lower the risk of asbestos-related illnesses among Navy personnel


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