Brave Navy war veterans, from World War II, Vietnam, and Korea, risked their lives while protecting our country, all the while not knowing that they were unprotected from the dangers of asbestos lurking in the small spaces of their navy vessel. Today, the few lone survivors from WWII and numerous Korea and Vietnam vets are suffering from lung diseases due to their Navy asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma, the deadly, asbestos-related lung disease, is claiming and has claimed the lives of many veterans. After risking their lives to protect our country, we, as a country, did little to protect them against asbestos exposure. Men and women who fought and served on toxic, naval vessels deserve a great deal of thanks and maybe we can show our gratitude by offering adequate care and compensation to veterans.
Asbestos on Navy Ships
According to the National Cancer Institute, asbestos was initially mined in the U.S. during the late 1800s. During World War II, the use of asbestos in building products was at an all-time high, particularly in the construction of and on navy ships. Asbestos was used to insulate boilers, steam pipes, and hot water pipes due to its high-tensile strength and resistance towards heat and acid. During this time, Navy seamen were working and living in close quarters with asbestos in the atmosphere. While asbestos, naturally, is not dangerous, it can become toxic when broken down, manipulated, or when it starts to deteriorate as the loosened particles can enter the air and be unknowingly inhaled.
After prolonged and frequent exposure, individuals are at high risk for lung diseases such a mesothelioma. Because it was not well-known that asbestos could be dangerous until the late 1970’s, navy seamen or shipyard workers were not equipped or outfitted with proper protective gear, as none existed yet. Today, in shipyards across America, vessels filled with materials containing asbestos are still in use, but seamen are given proper protective gear and training when encountering and working in spaces that still have asbestos.
Seeking Justice for Unknown Asbestos Exposure
Navy veterans, who suffer from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, are having a hard time seeking the hard earned compensation they deserve. In states like Wisconsin, a proposal is traveling through the State Legislature to delay and deny justice to navy veterans and other victims who have been exposed to asbestos. Assembly Bill 19 and Senate Bill 13 would protect certain corporations from liability and additionally limit the rights of asbestos victims. Even after Navy service men and women returned from life at sea, many continued a dangerous and unknown exposure to asbestos in civilian jobs such as shipyard employees and factory workers. Wisconsin Senator, Jennifer Shilling, who opposes the proposal, points out that 30% of all known mesothelioma deaths in the U.S. took the lives of veterans.
While there is no cure for mesothelioma, Navy veterans suffering from the fatal disease deserve compensation in order to improve their quality of health care and overall quality of life during the last years of their life. Compensating a Veteran in need is a way of saying thanks and showing respect. Given all that they did for our country, putting their lives on the line, offering compensation for a disease that should have been prevented is the least we can do as a country.