Asbestos on Submarines

Before the 1980s, nearly 400 U.S. military submarines were built using asbestos, a material that’s now known to cause cancers like mesothelioma. This put U.S. Navy veterans that served aboard these submarines at risk of getting sick. Our team can help Navy veterans exposed to asbestos on submarines get benefits, medical care, and financial aid.

Written and Fact-Checked by: Laura Wright

How Did U.S. Navy Submarines Use Asbestos?

Beginning in 1922, the U.S. Navy listed asbestos as a required building material for new submarines. Its lightweight, heat-resistant, and anti-corrosive nature made asbestos a miracle product aboard submarines.

USS Argonaut
USS Argonaut

At the onset of World War II, the Navy prioritized asbestos stockpiling for the war effort and used it in every submarine.

Beginning in 1950, most U.S. Navy submarines commissioned were nuclear-powered. The nuclear reactor and high-tech equipment create high temperatures, making asbestos a useful product for fireproofing and insulation.

However, asbestos exposure can lead to cancers like mesothelioma 10-50 years later, as it takes decades for this cancer to form after asbestos exposure. Any Navy veteran who served on a submarine before the early 1980s could be at risk of mesothelioma today.

Thankfully, U.S. Navy veterans can pursue benefits like financial aid and health care from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Download our Free Veterans Compensation Guide to learn more.

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List of U.S. Navy Submarines With Asbestos

The Mesothelioma Hope team has determined that 383 U.S. Navy submarines contained asbestos.

Navy submarines that used asbestos included: 

  • USS Abraham Lincoln
  • USS Albacore
  • USS Alexander Hamilton
  • USS Amberjack
  • USS Andrew Jackson
  • USS Atule
  • USS Balao
  • USS Baltimore
  • USS Bumper
  • USS Burrfish
  • USS Cabezon
  • USS Cabrilla
  • USS Casimir Pulaski
  • USS Catfish
  • USS Dolphin
  • USS Entemedor
  • USS Escolar
  • USS Finback
  • USS Flasher
  • USS Flier
  • USS Flounder
  • USS Flying Fish
  • USS Francis Scott Key
  • USS Gabilan
  • USS Gato
  • USS George Bancroft
  • USS Haddo
  • USS Halibut
  • USS Hammerhead
  • USS Icefish
  • USS Indianapolis
  • USS Irex
  • USS James Madison
  • USS Kamehameha
  • USS Kete
  • USS Kingfish
  • USS Kraken
  • USS Lamprey
  • USS Lancetfish
  • USS Lewis and Clark
  • USS Medregal
  • USS Mero
  • USS Michigan
  • USS Mingo
  • USS Moray
  • USS Nautilus
  • USS New York City
  • USS Odax
  • USS Omaha
  • USS Paddle
  • USS Philadelphia
  • USS Queenfish
  • USS Quillback
  • USS Rasher
  • USS Raton
  • USS Razorback
  • USS S-1
  • USS S-10
  • USS S-13
  • USS Sailfish
  • USS Salmon
  • USS Snook
  • USS Spearfish
  • USS Tautog
  • USS Tecumseh
  • USS Tench
  • USS V-3
  • USS V-4
  • USS Volador
  • USS Von Steuben
  • USS Will Rogers
  • USS William H. Bates

This is not the complete list of submarines with asbestos onboard. A submarine you served on could have used asbestos even if it’s not listed above. Call (866) 608-8933 to learn more.

Types of Asbestos Products Used in Submarines

Navy veterans who served aboard any U.S. submarine built before the early 1980s may have been exposed to asbestos. Asbestos in submarines helped keep the vessels safe from corrosion and also fireproofed them.

Submarine products that used asbestos include:

  • Boiler lining and insulation
  • Fireproofing materials
  • Gaskets
  • Inside and outer deck flooring
  • Packing products
  • Pipe insulation
  • Power cables
  • Rope and twine
  • Sealants and paint
  • Structure insulation
  • Tape and adhesives
  • Valves

Asbestos was also used in some Navy sailors’ protective equipment. For example, fireproof clothing and gloves were vital for sailors working on high-temperature parts of submarines, such as boilers and engines.

Submarine Jobs With a High Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos put all veterans serving aboard submarines at risk of mesothelioma later in life. However, some occupations posed a higher threat of asbestos exposure.

High-risk asbestos occupations aboard submarines include:

  • Boiler room workers
  • Electricians
  • Engine room technicians
  • Insulators
  • Maintenance workers
  • Mechanics
  • Metalworkers
  • Painters
  • Pipefitters
  • Plumbers
  • Torpedo and weapon crews
  • Welders

The cramped quarters aboard submarines caused greater-than-usual disturbance of asbestos fibers as sailors bumped into walls and walked the same stretches of flooring every day.

Over time, asbestos-based materials inside submarines could wear down and become airborne. With little ventilation inside submarines, Navy personnel could have easily inhaled the fibers.

Navy Shipyards, Submarines, and Asbestos Risks

Shipyard workers involved with the construction, repair, and demolition of U.S. Navy submarines were also at a very high risk of asbestos exposure.

U.S. Navy shipyard workers could breathe in or swallow asbestos fibers and go on to develop mesothelioma 10-50 years later.

Two shipbuilding companies produced U.S. Navy submarines: General Dynamic and Huntington Ingalls. Navy veterans and civilian workers who spent time at shipyards owned by these companies may have been exposed to asbestos.

If you were exposed to asbestos while serving on a U.S. Navy submarine or working in a shipyard, help is available. Learn about benefits, treatment options, and compensation in our Free Mesothelioma Guide, shipped overnight.

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Help for Navy Veterans Exposed to Asbestos on Submarines

U.S. Navy veterans who served aboard submarines made before the 1980s may have been exposed to asbestos and could be at risk of mesothelioma.

If you suffered exposure to asbestos on submarines, it’s important that you visit your doctor for regular screenings for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Early detection is key to getting treatments that can help you live longer and with fewer symptoms.

Further, if you or a loved one developed mesothelioma after serving on U.S. Navy submarines, you can pursue VA benefits, medical care, and other compensation options.

Download your Free Veterans Compensation Guide to learn how we can help — and on behalf of the Mesothelioma Hope team, thank you for your service.

Asbestos on Submarines FAQs

Is there asbestos in submarines?

Almost 400 U.S. Navy submarines contained asbestos between the 1930s and early 1980s.

However, no U.S. Navy submarines that were built with asbestos are currently in use by the U.S. Navy, according to a review of active vessels listed in the Naval Vessel Register.

Did other U.S. Navy ships besides submarines use asbestos?

Yes. Between the 1930s and early 1980s, virtually every U.S. Navy vessel was built with asbestos-based parts — not just submarines.

U.S. Navy ships that used asbestos included aircraft carriers, battleships, frigates, and more.

Why did U.S. Navy submarines use asbestos?

U.S. Navy submarines relied on asbestos-containing properties for their heat resistance and anti-corrosion properties.

However, once the dangers of asbestos-containing products became known to the public, the U.S. Navy stopped using asbestos in the new construction of its submarines.

Steps were also taken to remove asbestos-based products from Navy submarines and other military vessels after the risks were known as well.

Can I file private claims for asbestos exposure on Navy submarines?

Possibly, yes. You may be able to file a private claim and get financial aid if you were exposed to asbestos on a Navy submarine and later developed mesothelioma.

These claims can sometimes award millions of dollars in compensation. For example, a Navy veteran received $1.6 million through a private settlement when he developed mesothelioma decades after serving on the USS Will Rogers.

Private claims are filed against the makers of asbestos-based products, not the Navy or government, and don’t impact your ability to get VA benefits.

Written by:

Lead Editor

Laura Wright is a journalist and content strategist with more than 14 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.

7 References
  1. Dorrian, P. (2022, February 01). General Dynamics Keeps Navy Sub Asbestos Suit in Federal Court. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://news.bloomberglaw.com/litigation/general-dynamics-keeps-navy-sub-asbestos-suit-in-federal-court

  2. Hedley-Whyte, J., & Milamed, D. (n.d.). Asbestos and ship-building: Fatal consequences. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2604477/

  3. Madison, J. (2022, February 01). Navy submarine manufacturer successfully removes case to federal court under Federal Officer Removal Statute. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=05bfef08-5054-4a58-8e63-556a453a6ab7

  4. Naval Vessel Register. (n.d.). US Navy hulls in an ‘active’ status – all. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://www.nvr.navy.mil/QUICKFIND/SHIPSDETAIL_ACTIVE_ALL.HTML

  5. NTI. (n.d.). United States Active Submarines. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from http://www.nti.org/media/pdfs/united_states_active_duty_submarines.pdf?_=1341268482

  6. NTI. (2017, February 21). United States Submarine Capabilities. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/united-states-submarine-capabilities/

  7. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Asbestos. (n.d.) Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/asbestos/index.asp

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