Asbestos Use on Navy Frigates

Navy frigates were built with many asbestos-containing components during a time when the extent of asbestos’ dangers was not known. After the knowledge of asbestos’ danger became widespread, there were efforts to remove it from the United States Navy Frigates, but the damage had already been done — hosts of Navy workers had been exposed to asbestos-containing products.

Written and Fact-Checked by: Laura Wright

About United States Navy Frigates

Frigate ships play an important role in the history of the U.S. Navy. Throughout World War II, thousands of Navy staff lived on these ships, in close quarters with asbestos. The ships were essential in supporting patrol missions and other Navy operations. They also guided Navy destroyers.

Frigates functioned chiefly as combatants for submarines but were sometimes used as warships, mounted with short-range guns. Their affordability to efficiency ratio made them valuable players in the United States Military.

Navy Frigates and Asbestos Use

Yet almost every Navy frigate built between the 1930s and 1980s contained asbestos — a deadly material linked to mesothelioma and other health problems.

Any Navy veterans who served on frigates during this time should learn about the possible health risks related to asbestos exposure.

Asbestos Use in U.S. Navy Frigates

U.S. Navy Frigates were the sites of widespread use of asbestos. It was found in large amounts in the pipes, boiler rooms and engines of each ship. Other areas such as navigation rooms were not exempt.

callout heading=”Why Frigates Were Built with Asbestos”]Asbestos’ resistance to heat and fire made it the prime choice for insulation in the boilers, piping and electric fixtures on the frigates.[/callout]

It was also used in the crafting of the hull, and asbestos-containing products could be found in unsuspecting areas of the ship, such as flooring and bulkhead walls.

Although the first frigates were built in the late 18th century, frigates continued to evolve throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

Today, there are over twenty active frigates in the United States Navy. Any of the vessels built before the 1990s were likely to contain asbestos in some form.

Free Downloadable GuideVeterans Compensation Guide
  • Access $30+ billion in trust funds
  • File a VA claim
  • Receive legal compensation

Get Your Free Guide

High Asbestos-Risk Occupations on Navy Frigates

Although all those who worked on Navy frigates were at risk of being exposed to asbestos, some jobs came with an even higher risk.


Boilermakers were often required to install and maintain boilers that contained asbestos for insulation.

These boilermakers worked closely with the asbestos-containing equipment and in rooms with poor ventilation, making them vulnerable to the ingestion of asbestos fibers.


When pipe coatings were damaged, workers would need to remove and replace the insulation on these pipes. To do so, they had to mix dry asbestos into water to form the new coating. This process released fibers that they could then breathe in.

Pipefitters also had to maintain valves, which involved disassembling them — a task that could cause asbestos to disintegrate and become airborne.

Some engineers used scrapers and brushes to remove and replace asbestos gaskets in pumps which would also cause the asbestos to crumble.

Health Risks for Navy Frigate Workers

Anyone exposed to asbestos could be at risk of mesothelioma, an aggressive and incurable cancer.

Personnel in many roles on these ships were exposed, as well as the civilians that oversaw shipyard maintenance and those who suffered from secondhand asbestos exposure.

Throughout Navy frigates, workers of all backgrounds were exposed to airborne asbestos and without the safety gear needed to protect themselves.

Exposure Decades Ago Leads to Health Problems Today

Although the exposure occurred years ago, many of the health effects  have not presented themselves until now, since it takes 20 to 50 years for mesothelioma symptoms to appear

If you think you were exposed to asbestos while working in the U.S. Navy, you may still be at risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma, and you should make an appointment with your doctor.

Help for Navy Veterans With Mesothelioma

If you developed an asbestos-related illness as a result of occupational exposure in the United States Navy, there is help for you. We encourage all veterans with mesothelioma to seek the compensation they’re entitled to.

You can file for compensation through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), or legal claims against the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products.

To learn more about filing your claim, contact us today. Our team is standing by to help you.

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.

Speak to a Patient Advocate About Your Options

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there is hope. Contact us to learn more about mesothelioma and your treatment options.

  • Latest treatment information
  • Financial assistance for treatment
  • VA benefits help

Submit your information and a Patient Advocate will call you right back!

Complete the Form to Speak to a Patient Advocate

Free Survivors Guide
7 inspiring stories of hope & survival
  • Survivors who beat the odds
  • Tips for fighting mesothelioma
  • Navigating life after treatment
Get Your Free Download

“If I can help give even one person a small bit of hope, then this life of mine is worth something.”

Alexis Kidd, Mesothelioma Survivor