U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers and Asbestos Exposure

From the 1930s to the early 1980s, almost all aircraft carriers used by the United States Navy contained asbestos — which is now known to cause deadly illnesses like mesothelioma. Before the dangers of asbestos were understood, thousands of service members who served on Navy aircraft carriers at the time were exposed and put at risk.

Written and Fact-Checked by: Mesothelioma Hope Team

Asbestos Use in U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers

U.S. Navy aircraft carriers have been in use for about 100 years. U.S. carriers allow the military to project their airpower around the world without the need for a local base in what could be foreign or hostile territory.

From the 1930s to the early 1980s, U.S. Navy aircraft carriers relied heavily on asbestos-containing products. In those times, asbestos was used as a fire-resistant material, which was important on ships carrying dozens of aircraft.

Dozens of aircraft carriers used asbestos products, including the following designations:

  • CVA: Attack aircraft carriers
  • CVAN: Nuclear-powered attack aircraft carriers
  • CVB: Large aircraft carriers
  • CVL: Small aircraft carriers
  • CVN: Nuclear-powered aircraft carriers
  • CVT: Training aircraft carriers
  • CVS: Anti-submarine warfare support aircraft carriers

World War II saw military use of asbestos increase dramatically. Entire U.S. Navy aircraft carrier fleets were built with asbestos during this time.

Asbestos exposure can lead to several lung cancers and disorders, including mesothelioma. Asbestos fibers can cause damage to the linings of the lungs, abdomen, testicles, and heart, causing cells to mutate and become cancerous over time.

Fortunately, U.S. Navy veterans who have been exposed to asbestos on aircraft carriers and later developed mesothelioma can take actions.

For example, they can apply for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and receive financial compensation and medical treatment from the federal government.

Veterans also may be able to receive more financial compensation through a mesothelioma lawsuit or an asbestos trust fund claim.

Why Was Asbestos Used on U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers?

Asbestos was used on aircraft because of the material’s favorable chemical properties.

Asbestos is:

  • A good insulator
  • Fire-resistant
  • Lightweight
  • Sound-resistant

In particular, the U.S. Navy wanted to reduce the amount of serious fires on its aircraft carriers and used asbestos insulation as a relatively inexpensive way to do so.

Asbestos-containing products could be found on flight decks and all of the aircraft that made up Navy carrier air wings, including planes and helicopters.

Today, asbestos is no longer used on any U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. The dangers are fully understood by both scientists and military decisionmakers.

Yet anyone exposed to asbestos before the risks were well-known could be at risk today since mesothelioma and related diseases take 20-50 years to develop.

List of U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers that Used Asbestos

Asbestos use has been confirmed across dozens of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. This usage has been confirmed through U.S.

These U.S. Navy aircraft carriers had onboard:

  • USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72)
  • USS America (CV-66)
  • USS Antietam (CV-36)
  • USS Bataan (CVL-29)
  • USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24)
  • USS Bennington (CV-20)
  • USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31)
  • USS Boxer (CV-21)
  • USS Bunker Hill (CV-17)
  • USS Cabot (CVL-28)
  • USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70)
  • USS Constellation (CV-64)
  • USS Coral Sea (CVB-43)
  • USS Cowpens (CVL-25)
  • USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69)
  • USS Enterprise (CV-6)
  • USS Enterprise (CVN-65)
  • USS Essex (CV-9)
  • USS Forrestal (CV-59)
  • USS Franklin (CV-13)
  • USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42)
  • USS Hancock (CV-19)
  • USS Hornet (CV-8)
  • USS Hornet (CV-12)
  • USS Independence (CVL-22)
  • USS Independence (CV-62)
  • USS Intrepid (CV-11)
  • USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67)
  • USS Kearsarge (CV-33)
  • USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63)
  • USS Lake Champlain (CV-39)
  • USS Langley (CV-1)
  • USS Langley (CVL-27)
  • USS Lexington (CV-2)
  • USS Lexington (CV-16)
  • USS Leyte (CV-32)
  • USS Midway (CVB-41)
  • USS Monterey (CVL-26)
  • USS Nimitz (CVN-68)
  • USS Oriskany (CV-34)
  • USS Philippine Sea (CV-47)
  • USS Princeton (CVL-23)
  • USS Princeton (CV-37)
  • USS Randolph (CV-15)
  • USS Ranger (CV-4)
  • USS Ranger (CV-61)
  • USS Reprisal (CV-35)
  • USS Saipan (CVL-48)
  • USS San Jacinto (CVL-30)
  • USS Saratoga (CV-3)
  • USS Saratoga (CV-60)
  • USS Shangri-la (CV-38)
  • USS Tarawa (CV-40)
  • USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71)
  • USS Ticonderoga (CV-14)
  • USS Valley Forge (CV-45)
  • USS Wasp (CV-7)
  • USS Wasp (CV-18)
  • USS Wright (CVL-49)
  • USS Yorktown (CV-5)
  • USS Yorktown (CV-10)

Even if the aircraft carrier you served on does not appear on this list, you still may have been exposed to asbestos. A mesothelioma lawyer can help you determine when and where you were exposed if you served.

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Asbestos-Containing Products on U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers

U.S. Navy aircraft carriers used over 300 different asbestos-containing products for a variety of different reasons. Asbestos was used in everything from reducing fires to keeping carriers and ships well-insulated.

Asbestos-containing products on aircraft carriers included:

  • Boiler liners and blankets
  • Cement and mortar powder
  • Electric wire coating
  • Fireproof paper and protective clothing
  • Firewall and heat control products
  • Floor and ceiling tiles
  • Gaskets, valves, and packing
  • Paint, sealant, caulking, and adhesive
  • Ropes and cables
  • Soundproofing
  • Spray-on and pipe-wrap insulation
  • Welding rods

Some of these products may still be found on U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, other Navy ships, their homeports, or shipyards today, even after wide-ranging military programs to remove asbestos.

For example, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington still contained asbestos in several of its docks as of 2019. Several of its docks were made to fit Nimitz-class carriers, which are nuclear powered.

High-Risk Asbestos Occupations on U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers

While anyone who served aboard U.S. Navy aircraft carriers when asbestos was in use could be at risk of exposure today, some service members were at a higher risk of exposure than others.

This was especially true if they worked directly with asbestos-containing products on a daily basis for long periods of time.

Jobs with a high risk of asbestos exposure aboard U.S. Navy aircraft carriers included:

  • Boilermakers
  • Electricians
  • Engine room technicians
  • Firefighters
  • Hull maintenance workers
  • Insulators
  • Machinists
  • Mechanics
  • Metal fabricators
  • Painters
  • Plumbers
  • Steamfitters
  • Temperature control personnel
  • Wallboard installers
  • Weapons specialists
  • Welders

It is generally believed that service members who worked in the aircraft carrier engine room or boiler room are at some of the highest risks of exposure. Service members who worked on removing asbestos insulation from ships also are at higher risk.

Help for Navy Veterans With Mesothelioma

Navy veterans who were exposed to asbestos while they served on an aircraft carrier could be at risk of developing mesothelioma later in life. Though a mesothelioma diagnosis can be shocking or scary, veterans have options available.

Veterans with mesothelioma can:

  • Access medical care: Though mesothelioma is a rare cancer, there are mesothelioma specialists around the country who can treat it. Veterans can receive care from some of these doctors through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system.
  • Apply for VA benefits: By applying for VA benefits, veterans can receive monthly financial payments to cover medical bills, living expenses, and provide for spouses, children, or other loved ones.
  • File a mesothelioma lawsuit: Veterans may also receive greater financial compensation through a lawsuit. No branch of the U.S. military or government will be sued. Instead, a lawsuit will be filed against the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products who sold their goods to the military while knowing the risks.

If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma after serving in the military, you should explore your medical and legal options. While trying to receive financial compensation on top of health care can be confusing, you do not have to go through this process alone.

By working with mesothelioma lawyers, you can learn if you qualify for compensation. A lawyer will do much of the legal work for you so you can focus on staying healthy. Lawyers can also gather the necessary information to file a VA claim.

Our team can help you learn more about these medical and legal options. Get our free mesothelioma guide today.

Mesothelioma Hope was founded by a team of passionate health advocates to educate people about this aggressive form of cancer. Mesothelioma affects thousands of people each year. Our team works tirelessly to give hope to those impacted by mesothelioma. Learn more about operating principles and our Editorial Guidelines.

10 References
  1. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Asbestos Fact Sheet” Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tfacts61.pdf Accessed on 10 January 2018

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Environmental Health and Medicine Education.” Retrieved from www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/csem.asp?csem=29&po=7.

  3. Department of Veterans Affairs, “I am a Veteran” Retrieved from https://va.gov/opa/persona/index.asp Accessed on 10 January 2018

  4. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Exposure to Hazardous Materials – Asbestos” Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/disability-benefits/conditions/exposure-to-hazardous-materials/asbestos/ Accessed on 10 January 2018

  5. Department of Veterans Affairs, War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, “Asbestos Fact Sheet”, Retrieved from https://www.warrelatedillness.va.gov/WARRELATEDILLNESS/education/factsheets/asbestos-exposure.pdf Accessed on 10 January 2018

  6. Farley, J. (2019, July 18). Asbestos cleanups coming to dry docks at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from https://www.kitsapsun.com/story/news/2019/07/18/asbestos-cleanups-coming-dry-docks-puget-sound-naval-shipyard/1762098001/

  7. Inhalation Toxicology International Forum for Respiratory Research, “Government and Navy Knowledge Regarding Health Hazards of Asbestos: A state of the science evaluation (1900 to 1970)” Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.3109/08958378.2011.643417 Accessed on 10 January 2018

  8. Military.com, “Asbestos Illness Related to Military Service” Retrieved from https://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-benefits/asbestos-and-the-military-history-exposure-assistance.html Accessed on 10 January 2018

  9. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Disability and Healthcare Benefits”, Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/ Accessed on 10 January 2018

  10. U.S. Navy Official Website, General Information, Retrieved from http://www.navy.mil/ Accessed on 10 January 2018

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