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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.

Fact-Checked and Updated by: Jenna Tozzi, RN

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Asbestos Use in U.S. Navy Frigates

U.S. Navy frigates were the sites of widespread use of asbestos between the 1930s and early 1980s. 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.

Asbestos’ resistance to heat and fire made it the prime choice for insulation in the boilers, piping, and electric fixtures on the frigates.

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.

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

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and private sources offer financial aid to veterans with mesothelioma. Learn more by downloading our Free Veterans Compensation Guide. 

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  • Access $30+ billion in trust funds
  • File a VA claim
  • Receive legal compensation

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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 who 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 10 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. Fortunately, you could receive financial aid through the VA and private sources.

Download our Free Veterans Compensation Guide to learn more.

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

Get Your Free Guide

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 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:

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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