Asbestos on Battleships | Mesothelioma Risks From U.S. Battleships (2023)

Quick Summary

Asbestos was used on U.S. Navy battleships in many different ways. Battleships often used asbestos insulation. Pipes, boilers, and other heavy equipment were also blanketed with it. You can get benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as well as medical care and financial aid, if you got sick from asbestos on battleships.

Written and Fact-Checked by: Christopher DryfoosContributing Author

Topics on this page:

  • Asbestos Risks on Battleships
  • Battleships With Asbestos
  • Battleship History
  • Help for Veterans

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Asbestos and Battleships Explained

Battleships were once an important part of the U.S. Navy's fleet. They are large, heavily armored warships containing many heavy guns for use during battles at sea.

Battleships were especially prevalent in the 1800s and early 1900s. However, after World War II, most battleships were decommissioned and aircraft carriers took their place. Only a handful of battleships remained active through the 1990s.

That said, many Navy personnel served aboard battleships in the mid-20th century — and much of these ships were built with asbestos. Asbestos was a highly durable material, but it's known as a cancer-causing substance today.

Those who served aboard U.S. battleships that used asbestos could develop:

  • Mesothelioma
  • Asbestosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Other asbestos-related diseases

Fortunately, veterans who developed mesothelioma can pursue benefits from the VA and compensation from makers of asbestos-based products. Get a Free Veterans Packetto see if you qualify.

Get a FREE Veterans PacketGet information on:Treatment OptionsMesothelioma SpecialistsVeterans BenefitsGet a Free Veterans Packet

Asbestos Exposure Risks on Battleships

Anyone who lived, worked, or served on battleships was in danger of asbestos exposure. Due to government mandates,nearly every U.S. Navy vessel relied on asbestosfor decades, including battleships.

Asbestos on Battleships | Mesothelioma Risks From U.S. Battleships (2)

(Video) Asbestos in Battleships | Sokolove Law

Areas of the battleship that commonly used asbestos included the boiler rooms and engine rooms. Asbestos covered the boilers and the equipment used in the engine rooms.

Any time these parts were overhauled or built, asbestos was released and became airborne, where it could have been inhaled or ingested.

Asbestos-Containing Products on Battleships

One of the most notable asbestos-containing products used aboard battleships was insulation. Asbestos was lightweight, a good fireproofing agent, and provided excellent insulating properties. However, the insulation could break down in damp conditions, sending fibers into the air.

Machinery and pipe insulation aboard the battleships also used asbestos, meaning as these parts were handled, installed, or replaced, fibers could be released. Since the ventilation on these ships was so poor, the air was often rife with asbestos fibers.

Other asbestos products on battleships included:

  • Adhesives
  • Boilers
  • Gaskets
  • Valves

The asbestos fibers released from these products can get stuck in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testicles. Once inside the body, asbestos fibers can never be removed and will irritate healthy cells and tissues. After 10-50 years, Navy veterans exposed to asbestos on battleships could develop asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma.

Did you or a loved one get sick after using asbestos-based products on a ship? Get a Free Veterans Packet to see if you qualify for VA benefits.

Shipyards & Asbestos Exposure

It was not only the sailors themselves that were exposed to asbestos — people who worked on battleships and other vessels in Naval shipyards were also exposed to asbestos when replacing damaged areas of insulation or putting in new insulation.

Did you know?

It's believed that 4.5 million people were exposed to asbestos in shipyards during World War II — a time period when battleships were widely used by the U.S. Navy. The New York Times noted that many who served in these shipyards worked in thick clouds of asbestos dust.

While there are no longer battleships in today’s Navy, thousands of shipyard workers and sailors were already exposed. Today, one-third of all mesothelioma cases are linked back to service in the U.S. Navy or a shipyard.

List of Battleships With Asbestos

There were many battleships at sea during the mid-twentieth century when the U.S. was at war. At least 36 battleships and hundreds of other Navy ships are known to have used asbestos.

(Video) Asbestos Exposure on Navy Ships - Things you need to know!

Battleships that contained asbestos included:

Pennsylvania-class ships

  • USS Pennsylvania (BB-38)
  • USS Arizona (BB-39)

North Carolina-class ships

  • USS North Carolina (BB-55)
  • USS Washington (BB-56)

South Dakota-class ships

  • USS South Dakota (BB-57)
  • USS Indiana (BB-58)
  • USS Massachusetts (BB-59)
  • USS Alabama (BB-60)

Iowa-class ships

  • USS Iowa (BB-61)
  • USS New Jersey (BB-62)
  • USS Missouri (BB-63)
  • USS Wisconsin (BB-64)

According to reports by the U.S. Navy, the four Iowa-class shipshad nearly 500 tons of heat insulation per ship. This insulation likely contained asbestos.

Do you have mesothelioma after serving on a U.S. battleship?File for VA benefits now with help from Eric Hall, a VA-accredited attorney and fellow U.S. veteran.

Need help filing for VA benefits?VA-Accredited Attorney Capt RIANG Eric Hall can help you file for free.File for VA Benefits

History of Asbestos on Battleships

Battleships were once the most strategic vessels used by the U.S. Navy. They were the greatest in naval seapower and contained many weapons that were used during battle.

(Video) Asbestos Exposure On Battleships | Sokolove Law

Battleships were built to last. Because they were made from steel armor plating and used asbestos insulation, they were fire-resistant and could withstand enemy attacks.

While battleships were an important part of the U.S. Navy, almost all of them used cancer-causing asbestos materials. Get a Free Veterans Packet to find out if you qualify for benefits after serving.

Most battleships did not operate independently. Instead, there were often fleets of several battleships and other vessels that roamed the seas and worked together in groups.

Most battleships were in operation during World War II, when twelve battleships were added to the existing fleet. Battleships continued to serve the U.S. Navy during both the Korean and Vietnam Wars at a lesser scale.

The four Iowa-class battleships were upgraded in the 1980s for use during wartime in light of the Cold War. There was some use of battleships during the Gulf War, but these ships have since been decommissioned in the 1990s and replaced by aircraft carriers.

Help for Veterans With Mesothelioma

Anyone that served on U.S. battleships could have been exposed to asbestos fibers — even those who did not directly handle asbestos-containing products.

As a result of this exposure,roughly 1,000 veterans developmesothelioma each year, with many more suffering from other asbestos-related illnesses.

If you developed mesothelioma after serving on a battleship, get a Free Veterans Packet today. You may qualify for VA benefits, medical care, and financial compensation. Our team of U.S. veterans, patient advocates, nursing support personnel, and VA-accredited lawyers is standing by to help you right now.

FAQs About Asbestos on Battleships

How did the U.S. Navy use asbestos on battleships?

Asbestos was used in almost every U.S. battleshipdue to government mandates to keep them well-insulated.

(Video) U.S. Navy Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos-containing insulation, piping, gaskets, and valves could be found throughout battleships. Common places that used asbestos aboard these vessels included engines and boilers.

Unfortunately, anyone exposed to asbestos is at risk of developing mesothelioma and other life-threatening illnesses 10-50 years later.

Why did the U.S. Navy use asbestos on battleships if it was dangerous?

The risks of asbestos exposure weren't known by most people who served in the U.S. Navy until millions had already been exposed.

The manufacturers of asbestos-containing productsconcealed the dangersfrom service members and the general public. These manufacturers knew asbestos was harmful but never said a word.

Instead, they focused on the benefits of asbestos, allowing millions of Navy personnel and shipyard workers to be put in danger.

Only a handful of U.S. battleships were still in service by the time the risks of asbestos became widely known in the early 1980s. However, by this point, it's likely that many had already been exposed.

Why did the U.S. Navy stop using battleships?

The U.S. Navy largely stopped using battleships after World War II because they weren't cost-effective, according to the National Interest. Aircraft carriers were much more favored over battleships.

Instead of directly fighting from ship to ship, aircraft carriers held airplanes that took off to fight battles in the air and on land. These ships had more attack power when compared to battleships.

Unfortunately, both battleships and aircraft carriers often contained asbestos, meaning anyone aboard these vessels could be in danger of mesothelioma today.


Asbestos on Battleships | Mesothelioma Risks From U.S. Battleships? ›

Asbestos Exposure on Navy Ships. Before the dangers of asbestos were widely known, more than 300 asbestos products were used on U.S. Navy ships from the 1930s to the early 1980s. This decision placed veterans at risk for mesothelioma and other serious respiratory illnesses. Why Trust

Do US Navy ships have asbestos? ›

Members of the U.S. Navy were at an increased risk of asbestos exposure. Asbestos was used throughout ships in the U.S. Navy due to its heat-resistant properties, as seagoing vessels and submarines contained engines, boiler rooms and other below-deck areas that generated great amounts of heat.

Was asbestos exposure on the USS Enterprise? ›

Asbestos Exposure Case in USS Enterprise (CV-65)

Sailors who have served aboard the USS Enterprise may be at risk of developing mesothelioma and other deadly diseases due to the presence of asbestos, which was used in equipment and materials on the ship at the time of its construction.

Can you sue the Navy for asbestos exposure? ›

Navy veterans may receive compensation benefits by filing a VA claim. For veterans with mesothelioma or lung cancer, VA disability compensation payments start at about $3,100 each month. Navy veterans may also pursue compensation by filing a lawsuit against companies that supplied the military with asbestos products.

Do ships still use asbestos? ›

Asbestos has been banned in ships since 2002, although through our extensive Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) inspections, it is still found in most ships today.

Where is asbestos found in ships? ›

Asbestos is also one of the most common and most hazardous materials found onboard ships. It will typically be found in the vessels' engine rooms, often inserted between steel plates.

Did the USS America have asbestos? ›

The USS America (CV-66), a large supercarrier of the Kitty Hawk class, was constructed with asbestos in many components and materials. The Navy scuttled the USS America in 2005 after a long career that unfortunately included asbestos exposure in crew members.

Did the USS Independence have asbestos? ›

The USS Independence is a Navy Aircraft Carrier that had a long and proud career. Built in 1958, many materials and parts onboard contained asbestos, exposing Navy servicemembers to carcinogenic asbestos dust.

Was asbestos used in submarines? ›

Chrysotile asbestos, specifically, was used for insulation, gaskets, packing and tape, while amosite asbestos was used for lightweight insulation aboard Navy submarines. Asbestos was also present in water pipes, valves and flanges of these ships.

Why wasn t USS Enterprise preserved? ›

Enterprise was obsolete and the idea of museum ships at that time was very much in its infancy. However the priorities of that time were modernizing and making the most of much smaller budgets. Enterprise was to valuable as scrap and no one had the money to invest in purchasing it for the purposes of preservation.

What percentage of asbestos exposure is VA disability? ›

Mesothelioma and lung cancer caused by asbestos is rated at 100%. Noncancerous asbestos illnesses are rated anywhere from 0% to 100%.

How do I prove that I was exposed to asbestos? ›

Your mesothelioma attorney will prove your asbestos exposure by:
  1. Using their asbestos database to track down who is liable for your exposure.
  2. Gathering affidavits attesting to asbestos products you worked with and work sites where you were exposed.

When was asbestos banned in the military? ›

Asbestos Use in the Military

All five military branches relied heavily on asbestos and products that used the mineral from the 1930s until the 1970s, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restricted its use due to health concerns. However, some military construction used asbestos products as late as 1991.

When did asbestos stop being used on ships? ›

For ships built after 1 January 2011

"From 1 January 2011, for all ships, new installation of materials which contain asbestos shall be prohibited".

Why is asbestos used in ships? ›

Asbestos was used to build ships because it is naturally resistant to saltwater corrosion and effective at preventing fires on vessels.

Can you get compensation for asbestos exposure? ›

Anyone who has been suffering from asbestosis within the last three years can make a claim for asbestosis compensation. This is because there is a time limit of three years in which you are able to start a claim.

What is the most common asbestos exposure? ›

  • Today, the populations most heavily exposed to asbestos are those in construction trades.
  • In the past, pipe fitters, shipyard workers, military workers, automobile mechanics, and people in many other occupations were also exposed.

What places have the most asbestos? ›

States in the West are also a hotbed for environmental asbestos exposure, with naturally occurring asbestos deposits in many mountainous regions of Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and California. Other states synonymous with manufacturing and trade have high incidence rates of asbestos-related diseases.

How was asbestos used in the military? ›

For much of the 20th century, asbestos products were common in the U.S. military because of their ability to insulate and fireproof. Every branch of the armed forces used asbestos in the construction of ships, tanks, trucks, aircraft, barracks and other buildings.

Did the USS Ranger have asbestos? ›

Veterans who served aboard the USS Ranger were likely exposed to asbestos over their course of their regular duty. Ships built between the 1930s and mid-1970s used asbestos in much of the onboard equipment, including turbines, boilers, valves, pumps, and electrical components.

Why did the U.S. sink the USS America? ›

The carrier was sunk as part of a Navy effort to understand how to protect carriers from attacks. After four weeks of live-fire testing, sailors finally had to scuttle the carrier to send it under.

Did the USS Midway have asbestos? ›

The largest ship in the world at the time of construction, the USS Midway was built by Newport News Shipbuilding and launched a week after the end of WWII. Asbestos was used throughout the ship.

Did the USS Saratoga have asbestos? ›

One of four supercarriers built in the 1950s, the New York Naval Shipyard constructed the USS Saratoga in 1955. Asbestos was found throughout the ship.

Did the USS Coral Sea have asbestos? ›

His MOS was as an "aircraft engine mechanic helper, line service." The USS Coral Sea has been identified as a Navy escort carrier that contained a variety of asbestos-containing products within its physical plant, as well as using the same products in various activities.

When did national gypsum stop using asbestos? ›

National Gypsum incorporated asbestos into at least 30 different types of building materials. Asbestos was used to strengthen and fireproof these construction products. The company stopped using asbestos in their products in the early 1980s. All of its current product lines are asbestos-free.

Was asbestos used in tanks? ›

For most of the 20th century, the U.S. armed forces used asbestos extensively in the production and maintenance of ships, planes, tanks, trucks and other equipment. Hundreds of thousands of sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines were regularly and unknowingly exposed to the lethal material.

What has asbestos been used for historically? ›

Asbestos was used in the making of fire resistant clothing for fire fighters and hot pads used in food production. Asbestos was also used by the automotive industry in such things as brake shoes and clutch fittings for cars and trucks.

Was asbestos used in gas masks? ›

Civilian gas masks which were produced between 1937 and 1942, during the height of the Second World War, predominantly contained chrysotile, or white asbestos filters, although some were produced containing crocidolite.

Why was the USS Enterprise called the GREY Ghost? ›

She was also the first American ship to sink a full-sized enemy warship after the Pacific War had been declared when her aircraft sank the Japanese submarine I-70 on 10 December 1941. On three occasions during the war, the Japanese announced that she had been sunk in battle, inspiring her nickname "The Grey Ghost".

What American carrier was damaged and would later have to be abandoned? ›

Although Yorktown was dead in the water, her aircraft were still fighting in the air, joining those from Enterprise in striking the Japanese carrier Hiryu late that afternoon. After taking four direct hits, the Japanese flattop was soon helpless. She was abandoned by her crew and left to drift.

What is left of USS Enterprise? ›

Former USS Enterprise (CVN-65) was deactivated in 2012 and decommissioned in 2017. It is currently stored at HII Newport News Shipbuilding. According to a National Environmental Act Policy draft report, any shipyard would not start dismantlement until 2025.

What are 3 medical conditions as a result of excess exposure to asbestos? ›

According to IARC, there is sufficient evidence that asbestos causes mesothelioma (a relatively rare cancer of the thin membranes that line the chest and abdomen), and cancers of the lung, larynx, and ovary (8).

Who gets 100% VA disability? ›

A veteran can receive a temporary 100% rating when they are hospitalized for 21 or more days for a service-connected condition. A veteran can receive a 100% rating if they are having surgery for a service-connected condition and will require an extensive recovery time that limits their mobility.

What does 70% VA disability look like? ›

As of December 1, 2021, veterans with a 70 percent VA disability rating receive $1,663.06 per month in VA compensation. This monetary benefit is tax free at both the federal and state levels. The exact amount of compensation may increase or decrease each year depending on the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

Can the lungs clear asbestos? ›

Can asbestos be removed from the lungs? No known method exists to remove asbestos fibers from the lungs once they are inhaled. Some types of asbestos are cleared naturally by the lungs or break down in the lungs.

What is the life expectancy of asbestos patients? ›

Average asbestos-related lung cancer life expectancy is 16.2 months. An asbestos-related lung cancer prognosis is best determined by a lung cancer specialist. You may be able to improve your prognosis through treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

Are there immediate signs of asbestos exposure? ›

There are no known short-term side effects of asbestos exposure. This means that even breathing in high amounts of asbestos does not cause immediate symptoms. The long-term health effects of asbestos exposure take years or even decades to develop, with the earliest sign usually being shortness of breath.

When was asbestos used on Navy ships? ›

Asbestos Exposure on Navy Ships. Before the dangers of asbestos were widely known, more than 300 asbestos products were used on U.S. Navy ships from the 1930s to the early 1980s. This decision placed veterans at risk for mesothelioma and other serious respiratory illnesses. Why Trust

When was asbestos banned in the Navy? ›

The Navy's 1975 policy was to remove and replace with nonasbestos materials only insulation that was damaged or had to be removed to accomplish necessary repairs.

Have all uses of asbestos been completely banned in the US since 1970? ›

Asbestos Ban in the U.S. On July 12, 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule to ban the majority of asbestos products. However, it was overturned and asbestos is still imported from other countries.

What is ship asbestos? ›

Common Asbestos Products Used in Ship Construction

Most boiler insulation on ships contained about 15% asbestos. Other asbestos components, such as gaskets, were also often used in boilers to further improve fireproofing and durability. Pipes on ships may also contain large amounts of asbestos insulation.

What is the asbestos management plan for ships? ›

The principal objective of the Asbestos Management Plan is to minimize exposure of asbestos fibers for passengers, crew, personnel in port, etc. by effective management of asbestos containing material from the time it was identified until the time it is removed.

Did Navy ships have asbestos? ›

The U.S. Armed Forces largely used asbestos before the harmful effects of exposure were known. Navy veterans were exposed to asbestos for decades due to its presence on U.S. Navy ships. Asbestos exposure can lead to asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

Where is asbestos found on a ship? ›

Asbestos is also one of the most common and most hazardous materials found onboard ships. It will typically be found in the vessels' engine rooms, often inserted between steel plates.

Do all asbestos workers get mesothelioma? ›

Out of all people with heavy, prolonged exposure to asbestos, 8% to 13% develop mesothelioma. Research shows no amount of asbestos exposure is safe. The risk of developing mesothelioma is highest among asbestos workers who endured years of exposure, but it may develop in people with limited exposure.

Does asbestosis show up on xray? ›

Asbestosis is usually diagnosed by a careful medical history, exposure history and chest X-ray or CT scan that shows scarring of the lung tissues. This information, along with breathing tests, helps your doctor determine how severe your asbestosis is and how well your lung is functioning.

Can you get VA disability for asbestos exposure? ›

If you have a health condition caused by contact with asbestos during your service, you may be eligible for VA disability compensation. Compensation provides tax-free monthly payments.

Is there asbestos in submarines? ›

The vast use of asbestos throughout the ships endangered everyone onboard. As crew members spent long periods of time inside small submarines, asbestos fibers from various parts of the ship re-circulated throughout the vessel, increasing crew members' risk of significant exposure.

What material are Navy ships made of? ›

Steel: This is a highly versatile ship construction material and is used extensively on ships for the making of its integral structure and parts. Steel has been in use for over 150 years in the shipbuilding industry, thanks to its excellent mechanical properties and low cost.

What does the military use asbestos for? ›

For much of the 20th century, asbestos products were common in the U.S. military because of their ability to insulate and fireproof. Every branch of the armed forces used asbestos in the construction of ships, tanks, trucks, aircraft, barracks and other buildings.

Why can't you smoke on a submarine? ›

Everybody is aware that smoking is a legal, if harmful, stress reliever. So the Navy banned smoking aboard submarines not with the stated purpose of curing the smokers, but of protecting nonsmoking submarine crew members from the threat of heart and lung disease from secondhand smoke.

Are there rats on submarines? ›

Most likely very rare. Even cardboard boxes are emptied to prevent cockroach eggs coming on board. Any rat that tries to sneak in on a mooring line is blocked with a rat guard like most skimmers but also Subs don't take on pallets of stores directly. Short answer: No, at least not US submarines.

Do submariners get radiation? ›

Background: Men stationed on nuclear-powered submarines are occupationally exposed to external ionizing radiation at very low levels and radiation dose for each individual is closely monitored.

How thick is a battleship hull? ›

The thickness of the hulls of warships depends on their combat purpose. In extreme cases, it can be from 3 mm for mine warfare ships to even 650 mm on the 1941 battleship “Yamato” [1].

How thick is the armor on a battleship? ›

The belt armor protecting the hull was over 12 inches thick and inclined at 19 degrees from vertical, to protect the ships from armor piercing shells.

How do Navy ships not rust? ›

On the bottom of ship hulls, the Navy uses a special epoxy-based red paint to prevent rust and limit barnacle growth.

What are symptoms of asbestos exposure? ›

Symptoms of asbestosis
  • shortness of breath – this may only occur after physical activity at first, but it can eventually become a more constant problem.
  • a persistent cough.
  • wheezing.
  • fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • chest pain.
  • in more advanced cases, clubbed (swollen) fingertips.
Jan 31, 2023

How do you prove asbestos exposure? ›

Your mesothelioma attorney will prove your asbestos exposure by:
  1. Using their asbestos database to track down who is liable for your exposure.
  2. Gathering affidavits attesting to asbestos products you worked with and work sites where you were exposed.

When was asbestos banned from being produced in the US? ›

On July 12, 1989, EPA issued a final rule banning most asbestos-containing products.


1. Navy Veteran Asbestos Exposure | Buffalo Mesothelioma Lawyers
(Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford, LLC)
2. Did you Serve on Navy Ships With Asbestos?
(Robert Shuttlesworth)
3. Navy Occupations With High Risk Asbestos Exposure
(The Mesothelioma Center)
4. Asbestos Exposure On Cruisers | Sokolove Law
(Sokolove Law®)
5. Navy Occupations Asbestos Exposure | Sokolove Law
(Mesothelioma Resources by Sokolove Law)
6. Navy Solders exposed to Asbestos
(Rob Saunders)
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