United States Navy Cruisers

Cruisers are one of the most versatile warships ever utilized by the United States Navy. The USN employed different cruiser sizes and forms for the past two hundred years. Yet for much of the 20th century, cruisers were built with a deadly material called asbestos. Anyone exposed to asbestos could be at risk of deadly diseases like mesothelioma.

Written and Fact-Checked by: Laura Wright

The first Navy cruisers were sailing warships designed for fast and agile maneuvering, being able to sustain for long voyages. Sail evolved to steam and diesel power. Now, modern navy cruisers are nuclear powered.

Regardless of their energy source, all cruisers built between the 1930s and the early 1980s put Navy veterans at risk of serious health problems since these vessels were built with asbestos.

Cruisers replaced the battleship after World War II. Now, cruisers are the largest American warships next to aircraft carriers. Battleships were unable to properly defend against enemy air attacks.

Cruisers, however, were easily modified for effective anti-aircraft weaponry in addition to bombarding ship and shore positions as battleships could.

Today’s sophisticated guided-missile cruisers are state-of-the-art weapons that work in conjunction with an entire battle fleet. Cruiser roles include air, surface, subsurface and long-range land striking capability with Tomahawk cruise missiles.

U.S. Navy cruiser variations include:

  • Armored Cruisers
  • Aircraft Cruisers
  • Auxiliary Cruisers
  • Battle Cruisers
  • Command Cruisers
  • Guided Missile Cruisers
  • Heavy Cruisers
  • Hunter-Killer Cruisers
  • Light Cruisers
  • Nuclear Cruisers

While asbestos was favored on ships for many reasons, exposure is now known to cause deadly health problems — including the incurable cancer mesothelioma.

Asbestos Use in Navy Cruisers

There were hundreds of cruiser-variation warships built from the 1930s until the 1980s. Ever one of these military vessels used asbestos in their construction.

During that six-decade span when asbestos was prominently used in cruiser building, Navy designers, planners, and shipbuilders thought they had the miracle material in asbestos.

Ships are hot and flammable environments that needed volumes of insulation and fire protection. Asbestos wouldn’t burn under any conditions.

This so-called “miracle mineral” was thermally neutral, non-corrosive, anti-conductive and lightweight. Asbestos was also readily available and cost-effective.

The huge problem with asbestos is when particles dislodge from the parent material and go airborne. This happened when asbestos-based products dried out and became friable.

Airborne asbestos contamination also happened when workers cut, fit and refit asbestos products. That occurred onboard cruisers that had poor ventilation as well as in shipyards when being built or maintained.

Asbestos Removal Programs

Once the health hazards became widely known, the Navy stopped using asbestos in new vessels. They also undertook a massive abatement program where asbestos-containing products were removed from the ships or properly contained.

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Types of Asbestos Products Used in Cruisers

Navy cruisers were built with over 300 different asbestos-containing products. These shipbuilding components were utilized across the Navy as well in all cruisers manufactured before the 1980s.

These asbestos-containing products were often found on cruisers:

  • Protective panels
  • Blankets
  • Fire shields
  • Cables and ropes
  • Deck tiles
  • Ceiling panels
  • Electrical cable coatings
  • Firefighting suits
  • Insulation materials
  • Paint
  • Adhesives
  • Caulking
  • Pipe and fuel line covers
  • Valves
  • Packings
  • Gaskets
  • Seals
  • Welding rods

All asbestos-based products presented health risks to those vets working with or around airborne asbestos fibers.

High Asbestos-Risk Occupations on Cruisers

Every Navy veteran deployed on a cruiser built with or containing, asbestos is at risk of developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.

These were Navy occupations having the highest asbestos exposure risk:

  • Electricians, plumbers, and pipe-fitters
  • Engine room and boiler tenders
  • Firefighters
  • Gunners and munitions specialists
  • Insulators
  • Machinists, mechanics, and millwrights
  • Metal fabricators and welders
  • Painters and plasterers
  • Refitters and demolition workers
  • Tile setters and mortar mixers

The degree of risk for workers depends on the quantity of airborne asbestos particles, the specific asbestos type, and the duration of exposure time.

Help for Navy Veterans with Mesothelioma

U.S. Navy veterans who served onboard cruisers containing asbestos materials have a high risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Navy veterans who worked in shipyards where cruisers were manufactured, maintained and refitted also had a high risk of airborne asbestos fiber exposure.

Mesothelioma has a long latency period of 20 to 50 years after exposure before disease symptoms show.

It’s difficult for doctors to treat late-stage mesothelioma, but veterans can get the best treatment possible with financial compensation and benefits from the U.S Department of Veterans of Affairs (VA).

Mesothelioma lawyers have been helping U.S. Navy veterans seek compensation for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases for nearly four decades.

Specialized attorneys work across America to ensure Navy veterans have help in settlement negotiations and trust funds access.

Our team can tell you more about VA claims and other forms of mesothelioma compensation. Get our free mesothelioma guide today.

Written by:

Lead Editor

Laura Wright is a journalist and content strategist with more than 15 years of professional experience. She attended college at the University of Florida, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2008. Her writing has been featured in The Gainesville Sun and other regional publications throughout Florida.

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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. Mesothelioma Veterans Center, “Mesothelioma and Navy Veterans” Retrieved from https://www.mesotheliomaveterans.org/veterans/military/navy/ Accessed on 10 January 2018

  6. 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

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

  8. 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

  9. VA/Vets.gov website, Veterans Disability and Healthcare Benefits”, Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/ Accessed on 10 January 2018

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