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Asbestos on Navy Ships

Asbestos could be found in almost every U.S. Navy ship for much of the 20th century. As a result, Navy veterans are at risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Mesothelioma Hope can help veterans who became ill after being exposed to asbestos on Navy ships file for VA benefits and pursue additional forms of compensation.

Legally reviewed by: Brian J. Cooke

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Dangers of Asbestos on Navy Ships

The U.S. Navy used more asbestos than any other military branch before the dangers were known. Asbestos-containing products were widely used in all Navy ships from the 1930s to the early 1980s. Asbestos kept the ships fireproof and soundproof.

Did You Know? 33% of all mesothelioma cases have been linked to the U.S. Navy or shipyards.

When disturbed, asbestos fibers can fly into the air. Due to poor air circulation and close quarters on Navy ships, sailors aboard could inhale the dangerous fibers. Anyone exposed to asbestos can develop mesothelioma, a life-threatening cancer, later in life.

Thankfully, if you are a Navy veteran who developed mesothelioma due to asbestos on Navy ships, you may be eligible for payouts from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), free or low-cost health care, and other benefits.

Download your Free Veterans Compensation Guide to learn more about the different types of aid available to you and your family.

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Mesothelioma and Navy Ships Risks

U.S. Navy service members were at risk of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma for several unique reasons.

Here are the key factors that put Navy personnel at risk of mesothelioma:

  • The jobs that Navy service members performed often caused them to work with or be exposed to asbestos products every single day.
  • A Navy ship’s confined spaces and poor ventilation allowed asbestos fibers to stay airborne for long periods of time.
  • Sailors worked and lived on ships for long stretches, putting them at a higher risk of long-term asbestos exposure.

It takes 10-50 years for symptoms of mesothelioma to appear after asbestos exposure. As a result, many Navy veterans are being diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases today.

What Asbestos-Containing Products Were Used on Naval Ships?

Asbestos-based materials were used to build every U.S. Navy ship from the 1930s to the early 1980s.

Asbestos-containing products found on Navy ships included:

  • Adhesives
  • Boilers
  • Capacitors and meters
  • Cement powder and mortar mix
  • Deck and floor tiles
  • Dielectric paper and relays
  • Electrical wire coatings
  • Fireboxes and liners
  • Gaskets
  • Instruments
  • Instrument paneling
  • Packings
  • Paint and wallboard
  • Pipe coverings
  • Pumps
  • Sealants
  • Soundproofing materials
  • Spray-on insulation
  • Valves

Manufacturers used asbestos to make a wide variety of products used to build naval ships because the mineral resisted rust from salt in the water and air.

Asbestos was also a great insulator for steam pipes and fuel lines aboard U.S. Navy ships. It coated miles of electrical cables that ran through different types of naval vessels.

The image below shows the specific areas where asbestos on Navy ships could be found.

Locations of asbestos on Navy ships
Some areas of U.S. Navy ships used more asbestos than others. As shown above, the pump room, propulsion room, damage control room, and engine room were areas with a high risk of exposure.

Asbestos fibers could be released into the air and inhaled or swallowed by crew members when asbestos products were being installed or repaired, or even from normal ship vibrations.

“Asbestos fibers can be released at any hour of the day or night due to ship repairs during a voyage or as the result of vibrations that release airborne asbestos fibers into the many confined spaces aboard ships where sailors work and live.”

- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

Over time, exposure to these fibers could lead to mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Manufacturers knew about the health risks of asbestos as early as the 1930s but failed to warn the public that their products could make people sick.

Mesothelioma Hope may be able to help you file for VA benefits and pursue financial compensation from the asbestos manufacturers that caused you harm. Call (866) 608-8933 now — our team is standing by 24/7 to serve you.

List of U.S. Navy Ships With Asbestos

Hundreds of Navy ships used asbestos. Use our ship finder tool below to see if there was asbestos on a ship you served on.

Learn about the types of U.S. Navy ships that used asbestos.

Aircraft Carriers

Aircraft carriers are warships that serve as air bases for the U.S. Navy while at sea. Every U.S. Navy aircraft carrier contained tons of asbestos-containing products up until the early 1980s. Some of the bigger carriers contained nearly 1,000 tons of asbestos-laden materials.

Auxiliary Ships

The U.S. Navy used auxiliary ships to support combat ships and other naval operations.

These ships typically contained many asbestos-containing products, including gaskets, electrical wiring, soundproofing, and spray-on insulation. Unfortunately, this put U.S. Navy personnel who served aboard auxiliary ships at risk of mesothelioma.


Navy ship USS Missouri
The USS Missouri (BB-63)

At one time, battleships were the U.S. Navy’s backbone. These huge armored vessels formed the core of naval battle fleets sent to destroy enemy ships.

Battleships were also targets for opposing naval forces and were often subject to direct shell strikes. To protect the ships and sailors from enemy fire, the U.S. Navy coated the interior of battleships with asbestos-based products.


Cruisers are one of the largest warships in a fleet, and they contained tons of asbestos products because of the mineral’s fireproofing and insulation properties. Asbestos on cruisers could be found in cables, ceiling panels, deck tiles, fire shields, and other components.

At the time, it was believed asbestos would protect those onboard Navy cruisers. However, it is now known that asbestos on these naval vessels put sailors and their loved ones in danger of getting cancer.


Destroyers are powerful ships that protect the nation’s coastlines and provide a significant advantage during wartime.

However, the widespread use of asbestos on destroyers has endangered the lives of many veterans who served the nation.

VA benefits like monthly disability payments are available for veterans who developed mesothelioma after serving on U.S. Navy ships with asbestos.

Get our Free Mesothelioma Guide shipped overnight to learn how you can pursue financial assistance after being exposed to asbestos on a Navy ship.

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The military built U.S. Navy frigates with many asbestos-containing components. Frigates are small and fast warships.

In World War II, frigates were equipped with sonar to detect submarines. In later years, radar and surface-to-air missiles were added, allowing these small but mighty ships to strike down enemy aircraft.


From World War II onward, U.S. Navy minesweepers played an essential role in destroying sea mines and creating safe paths through the ocean.

However, many Navy sailors were put at risk of mesothelioma from asbestos on minesweepers.


Submarines have a long history of use in the U.S. Navy as a lethal weapon of war. Submarines built before the 1980s used asbestos-based materials to keep the vessels fireproof and resistant to corrosion from salt water.

Submarines and Asbestos Exposure: Normand’s Story

Normand Laurence was diagnosed with mesothelioma after serving in the U.S. Navy fabricating boiler plates for nuclear submarines and jets as a sheet metal worker.

“Norm had no idea that the materials he was working with on a daily basis, such as joint compound, floor tile, roofing shingles, and cement pipe, would eventually result in a fatal disease. Not once during his long career working with asbestos was he ever warned about its hazards.”

- Taylor Kearns, attorney for Navy veteran and mesothelioma patient Normand Laurence

Other U.S. Navy Ships With Asbestos

Many other U.S. Navy vessels contained a multitude of asbestos-containing products.

For example, asbestos on amphibious warships, cutters, and patrol boats put U.S. Navy service members at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Asbestos-containing products were often found on:

Did You Know?

In 2015, Viktor Lenac Shipyard removed 21 tons of asbestos insulation from the USS Mount Whitney, a Navy command ship. The vessel was built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company. She was launched in 1970 and is still in service today.

When the U.S. Navy finally began to remove asbestos products from its ships in the early 1980s, it was too late for thousands of U.S. Navy veterans who had already been exposed and put at risk of mesothelioma.

Medical treatment can help veterans with mesothelioma from asbestos on Navy ships live longer. Use our Free Doctor Match to get connected with a specialist near you.

Navy Ship Jobs With a High Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Man repairing machinery on a U.S. Navy ship
Service members were exposed to asbestos when repairing machinery on U.S. Navy ships. Here a machinery repairman cuts a valve component.

All veterans who served aboard U.S. Navy ships that used asbestos were at risk of exposure. That said, some were in extreme danger because of the jobs they held.

Below-deck sailors and engineers were often exposed to higher amounts of asbestos than those who worked above deck.

These service members worked in confined and poorly ventilated spaces like engine and boiler rooms, where they could easily inhale or ingest asbestos dust.

Learn more about Navy occupations with the highest risk for asbestos exposure below.


Navy boilermakers and boiler technicians were at increased risk of asbestos exposure because, before the early 1980s, most steam boilers were made of or insulated with asbestos. Boiler technicians also wore asbestos-laden gloves to protect themselves from heat and flames.

Fire Control Technicians

Navy fire control technicians and firefighters were at risk of asbestos exposure from fibers that became airborne during a blaze. The protective equipment they wore also contained asbestos.

Walter Twidwell served as a boiler tender and fireman in the U.S. Navy from 1954 to 1973 and was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2017.

Machinist’s Mates

Machinist’s mates serviced the engines and other equipment used to power Navy ships. Engine rooms were often full of asbestos materials such as piping, thermal insulation, and gaskets.

Working in these engine rooms for long periods of time put machinist’s mates and enginemen at particularly high risk of asbestos exposure.


Navy pipefitters were at an increased risk of asbestos exposure since they removed and reinstalled asbestos insulation on ships. Asbestos fibers from the insulation could easily be released into the air and inhaled by Navy personnel in the area.

Shipyard Workers

Shipyard workers had one of the highest-risk jobs for asbestos exposure.

When U.S. Navy shipyard workers had to build and repair ships and the parts within them, they frequently came into contact with asbestos. Additionally, asbestos exposure during naval vessel overhaul could happen when parts of a ship were demolished and rebuilt.

U.S. Navy Veterans & Mesothelioma Video Thumbnail

Eric Hall, a veteran and VA-accredited attorney, notes why U.S. Navy veterans could be at risk of mesothelioma and how those affected can get VA benefits. Call us today at (866) 608-8933 to learn more. View Transcript.

Duration: 1 min 01 sec

Military members who served between the 1930s and 1980s were very likely exposed to asbestos, particularly in the Navy because asbestos was used throughout the ships to insulate pipes and insulate their boiler systems.

And being that you were a sailor on a ship, you would’ve likely been on ship for months at any given time. And that’s why we see the highest rate of mesothelioma cases in Navy veterans.

Veterans diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases are entitled to several different types of benefits from the VA, to include disability benefits, health care benefits, there are even survivor benefits for those with asbestos-related diseases.

If a veteran believes they were exposed to asbestos while serving in the military, we encourage them to call Mesothelioma Hope so that we can work together to help them file for VA benefits.

Other High-Risk Jobs on Mesothelioma Navy Ships

There were a number of other jobs that often exposed service members on Navy ships to asbestos.

Other workers with a high risk of asbestos exposure included:

  • Electricians
  • Engine room technicians
  • Gunnery technicians
  • Hull maintenance specialists
  • Instrument technicians
  • Insulators and painters
  • Mechanics
  • Panel installers
  • Plumbers
  • Sonar technicians
  • Tile setters
  • Water tenders
  • Weapons specialists
  • Welders and steel fabricators

A study published in Ultrastructural Pathology analyzed 1,445 cases of mesothelioma and found that U.S. Navy service members and Merchant Marine seamen had the highest incidences of the cancer other than shipyard workers.

Get your Free Veterans Compensation Guide to learn more about filing for VA benefits and pursuing legal compensation for mesothelioma from asbestos on Navy ships.

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  • Receive legal compensation

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Mesothelioma Benefits and Compensation

Veterans who developed mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases after exposure to asbestos on Navy ships often qualify for VA benefits and compensation from private claims.

Learn more about the VA benefits and claim options you can access after a diagnosis.

  1. VA benefits: Veterans with mesothelioma may be eligible for compensation — nearly $4,000 per month in many cases — along with free or low-cost medical care through the VA health care system.
  2. Asbestos trust fund claims: Some manufacturers of asbestos products tried to get out of paying people for their injuries by declaring bankruptcy. However, they were court-ordered to set aside money for current and future asbestos victims. Today, more than $30 billion is available in asbestos trust funds.
  3. Mesothelioma lawsuits: Many veterans have successfully sued the manufacturers of the asbestos products that made them sick. Mesothelioma lawsuit settlements award $1 million to $1.4 million on average. Mesothelioma lawsuits are filed against the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products — not the military or the U.S. government.

Our team can help you pursue mesothelioma benefits and compensation: call (866) 608-8933 right now to get started.

Financial Help for Navy Veterans With Mesothelioma

Many U.S. Navy veterans were exposed to asbestos while bravely serving their country. While the risks of battling an enemy were known, the dangers of asbestos on Navy ships were not.

Navy veterans with mesothelioma deserve justice, VA benefits, and compensation for the harm they have suffered.

Mesothelioma Hope may be able to help you or a loved one file for military benefits and pursue other forms of aid and assistance.

Don’t wait: Download your Free Veterans Compensation Guide for more information.

Asbestos on Navy Ships FAQs

When did they stop using asbestos on Navy ships?

The Navy stopped using asbestos in its ships in the early 1980s due to the health risks.

Almost all U.S. Navy ships built before this time used asbestos-containing products due to government mandates. This includes aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and submarines.

What was asbestos used for in ships?

Asbestos was used to keep Navy ships fireproof, soundproof, and resistant to corrosion from salt water. The Navy favored asbestos since the material was inexpensive and could be used in many different products — and it seemingly had no drawbacks, as the manufacturers hid the risks.

Many different types of asbestos-containing products were used to build U.S. Navy ships. Asbestos in Navy ships could be found in components like boilers, gaskets, insulation, piping, pumps, and tiles.

Where is asbestos found on U.S. Navy ships?

Areas on Navy ships where a large amount of asbestos could be found included the pump room, propulsion room, damage control room, boiler room, and engine room.

Hundreds of asbestos-containing materials were used throughout Navy ships — from tiling to insulation — between the 1930s and the early 1980s.

Can you sue the Navy for asbestos exposure?

No, veterans cannot sue the Navy or the U.S. government for asbestos exposure on Navy ships related to their time of service.

However, veterans who developed mesothelioma after serving in the Navy may be able to sue the companies that made the asbestos-containing products to which they were exposed.

Mesothelioma lawsuit settlements award $1 million to $1.4 million on average.

Get your Free Veterans Compensation Guide now and see if you can take legal action against the companies that caused you harm.

Is there still asbestos on Navy ships?

Yes, in rare cases there are still active U.S. Navy ships that contain asbestos.

However, the asbestos on these vessels is safely contained and doesn’t pose a threat to human health.

What Navy jobs have asbestos exposure?

Most Navy jobs exposed service members to asbestos to some degree.

That said, some Navy jobs exposed workers to high levels of asbestos. These high-risk jobs include boiler technicians, machinist’s mates, pipefitters, and shipyard workers.

Navy veterans who performed these jobs handled asbestos-containing products daily or may have inhaled or swallowed asbestos fibers performing routine tasks. This could lead to mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related illnesses later in life.

Attorney Brian CookeReviewed by:Brian J. Cooke

Partner at Simmons Hanly Conroy & U.S. Marine Corps Veteran

  • Fact-Checked
  • Legal Editor

Attorney Brian Cooke is a partner at Simmons Hanly Conroy and a proud U.S. Marine Corps veteran. With over 20 years of experience fighting for justice on behalf of his clients, Brian has successfully secured millions in compensation for mesothelioma patients and their families.

  • Practicing Attorney Since 2000
  • Handled Hundreds of Asbestos Cases
  • Veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps
Jenna TozziWritten by:

Director of Patient Advocacy

Jenna Tozzi, RN, is the Director of Patient Advocacy at Mesothelioma Hope. With more than 15 years of experience as an adult and pediatric oncology nurse navigator, Jenna provides exceptional guidance and support to mesothelioma patients and their loved ones. Jenna has been featured in Oncology Nursing News and is a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators & the American Nurses Association.

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  3. American Cancer Society. Asbestos and Cancer Risk. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2024, from
  4. Britannica. (2023, August 29.) frigate. Retrieved February 14, 2024, from
  5. Department of Veterans Affairs, War Related Illness and Injury Study Center. (n.d.). Asbestos Fact Sheet. Retrieved February 14, 2024, from
  6. Franke, K., & Paustenbach, D. (n.d.). Government and Navy knowledge regarding health hazards of asbestos: A state of the science evaluation (1900 to 1970). Retrieved February 14, 2024, from
  7. Lemen RA, Landrigan PJ. Sailors and the Risk of Asbestos-Related Cancer. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Aug 9;18(16):8417. Retrieved February 14, 2024, from doi: 10.3390/ijerph18168417
  8. Naval History and Heritage Command. (n.d.). 80-G-477163 USS Ajax (AR-6). Retrieved February 14, 2024, from
  9. Naval History and Heritage Command. (n.d.). 80-G-K-4523 (Color) USS Missouri (BB-63). Retrieved February 14, 2024, from
  10. Roggli V.L., Sharma A., Butnor K.J., Sporn T., Vollmer R.T. Malignant mesothelioma and occupational exposure to asbestos: A clinicopathological correlation of 1445 cases. Ultrastruct. Pathol. 2002;26:55–65. Retrieved February 14, 2024, from doi: 10.1080/01913120252959227
  11. (2023, August 24.) USS Mount Whitney LCC 20. Retrieved February 14, 2024, from
  12. Veterans asbestos exposure. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2024, from 
  13. Viktor Lenac. USS Mount Whitney LCC-20. Retrieved February 14, 2024, from
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