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Asbestos on Submarines

Before the 1980s, nearly 400 U.S. military submarines were built using asbestos, a toxic mineral linked to cancers like mesothelioma. Veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma or other diseases after serving on these submarines may qualify for compensation. Learn how Mesothelioma Hope can help Navy veterans who developed illnesses from asbestos on submarines get VA benefits, medical care, and financial aid.

Legally reviewed by: Brian J. Cooke

Last updated:

Did the U.S. Navy Use Asbestos in Submarines?

Yes, the United States Navy relied on asbestos in submarines for a good part of the 20th century. The Navy mainly used asbestos to make the submarines fireproof, insulate them, and protect them from the damaging effects of saltwater.

USS Argonaut, SS 106
USS Argonaut (SS 106)

However, both the military and the public were unaware of the dangers of this mineral because asbestos product manufacturers covered them up for decades.

When asbestos-containing products are damaged during construction or repairs, they can release microscopic fibers. Anyone nearby could then breathe in or swallow these fibers.

Asbestos fibers can then become trapped in the linings of major organs and can cause mesothelioma cancer up to 10 to 50 years later.

If you’re a veteran with mesothelioma from service-related asbestos exposure, you can file for medical and financial benefits with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

You may also qualify to file private legal claims against the makers of insulation, valves, pipes, and other asbestos-containing products found throughout Navy submarines. These claims allow you to pursue additional compensation without affecting your ability to get VA benefits.

Download our Free Veterans Compensation Guide for more details on how to file for VA benefits and financial aid.

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  • Access $30+ billion in trust funds
  • File a VA claim
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List of U.S. Navy Submarines With Asbestos Onboard

Nearly 400 submarines commissioned by the U.S. Navy contained asbestos through the early 1980s.

Examples of Navy submarines built with asbestos products include:

  • USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72)
  • USS Albacore (AGSS 569)
  • USS Alexander Hamilton (SSBN 617)
  • USS Andrew Jackson (SSBN 619)
  • USS Argonaut (SS 166)
  • USS Atule (SS 403)
  • USS Balao (SS 285)
  • USS Baltimore (SSN 704)
  • USS Bumper (SS 333)
  • USS Burrfish (SS/SSR 312)
  • USS Cabezon (SS 334)
  • USS Cabrilla (SS 288)
  • USS Casimir Pulaski (SSBN 633)
  • USS Catfish (SS 339)
  • USS Dolphin (AGSS 555)
  • USS Entemedor (SS 340)
  • USS Escolar (SS 294)
  • USS Finback (SSN 670)
  • USS Flasher (SSN 613)
  • USS Flier (SS 250)
  • USS Flounder (SS 251)
  • USS Flying Fish (SSN 673)
  • USS Francis Scott Key (SSBN 657)
  • USS Gabilan (SS 252)
  • USS Gato (SSN 615)
  • USS George Bancroft (SSBN 643)
  • USS Haddo (SSN 604)
  • USS Halibut (SSN 587)
  • USS Hammerhead (SSN 663)
  • USS Icefish (SS 367)
  • USS Indianapolis (SSN 697)
  • USS Irex (SS 482)
  • USS James Madison (SSBN 627)
  • USS Kamehameha (SSN 642)
  • USS Kete (SS 369)
  • USS Kingfish (SS 234)
  • USS Kraken (SS 370)
  • USS Lamprey (SS 372)
  • USS Lancetfish (SS 296)
  • USS Lewis and Clark (SSBN 644)
  • USS Medregal (SS 480)
  • USS Mero (SS 378)
  • USS Michigan (SSGN 727)
  • USS Mingo (SS 261)
  • USS Moray (SS 300)
  • USS Nautilus (SSN 571)
  • USS New York City (SSN 696)
  • USS Odax (SS 484)
  • USS Omaha (SSN 692)
  • USS Paddle (SS 263)
  • USS Philadelphia (SSN 690)
  • USS Queenfish (SSN 651)
  • USS Quillback (SS 424)
  • USS Rasher (SS 269)
  • USS Raton (SS 270)
  • USS Razorback (SS 394)
  • USS S-1 (SS 105)
  • USS S-10 (SS 115)
  • USS S-13 (SS 118)
  • USS Sailfish (SS 572)
  • USS Salmon (SS 573)
  • USS Snook (SSN 592)
  • USS Spearfish (SS 190)
  • USS Tautog (SSN 639)
  • USS Tecumseh (SSBN 628)
  • USS Tench (SS 417)
  • USS V-3 (SF 6)
  • USS V-4 (SM 1)
  • USS Volador (SS 490)
  • USS Von Steuben (SSBN 632)
  • USS Will Rogers (SSBN 659)
  • USS William H. Bates (SSN 680)

Is your boat listed above? You may have been exposed to asbestos during your service, but we can help. Call our team now at (866) 608-8933 to learn what you can do next — from getting a diagnosis to filing for VA benefits.

Who Was Put in Danger by Asbestos on Submarines?

Anyone who was stationed on Navy submarines from 1922 to the early 1980s could have been exposed to asbestos. Because these naval vessels had such poor ventilation, submariners could have easily swallowed or breathed in airborne asbestos fibers.

This includes veterans who served during these wars:

  • World War II (1941-1945)
  • Korean War (1950-1953)
  • Vietnam War (1964-1975)
  • Cold War (1945-1991)

The cramped quarters on submarines meant that microscopic asbestos fibers were released on a regular basis as sailors bumped into the ship’s walls and walked the same stretches of flooring every day.

“Once asbestos fibers are disturbed and/or released into the environment, they can continuously be re-entrained into the air in confined spaces until they are removed or contained.”
– International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Sailors and the Risk of Asbestos-Related Cancer,” 2021

Navy sailors who were put in direct risk of asbestos exposure include:

Families were also put at risk if they came into contact with asbestos fibers on their loved ones’ uniforms, tools, or equipment. This is called secondhand asbestos exposure.

Shipyard Workers and Asbestos on Submarines

An estimated 4.5 million people worked in shipyards during World War II, many of whom spent time working on Navy submarines.

Shipyard workers who helped build, repair, or demolish U.S. Navy submarines are also at high risk of developing mesothelioma and other cancers.

“In some cases, asbestos-induced changes in the lung were detected in the X-rays of over 50% of the [shipyard] workforce.”
– Dr. Richard A. Lemen, former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General

Financial help is available if you were exposed to asbestos on Navy submarines at sea or in shipyards. Download our Free Veterans Compensation Guide to see what you may be eligible for.

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

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Asbestos Products on Navy Submarines

Several asbestos-containing products were used on Navy submarines for much of the 20th century. These products were handled on a nearly everyday basis by sailors and shipyard workers.

Asbestos products that could be found on submarines include:

  • Boiler lining
  • Fireproofing materials
  • Gaskets
  • Insulation
  • Pipes
  • Sealants and paint
  • Tape and adhesives
  • Valves

Asbestos was also used in some Navy sailors’ protective equipment. For example, fireproof asbestos clothing and gloves were vital for those working in boiler rooms, engine rooms, and other high-temperature areas.

Sadly, the Navy’s use of asbestos materials to build and repair submarines put millions of service members and their families at risk of mesothelioma and other serious diseases. In fact, one-third of all mesothelioma cases can be linked back to Navy service.

History of Asbestos in Submarines

In 1922, the U.S. Navy listed asbestos as a required building material for new submarines, specifically in tape, packing, gaskets, and insulation. Its lightweight, heat-resistant, and anti-corrosive nature made it an asset for these small, cramped vessels.

With the start of World War II in 1939, the Navy began stockpiling asbestos for the war effort and used it in every submarine.

Many classifications of submarines relied on asbestos, including:

  • Attack submarines (SSK)
  • Auxiliary submarines (AGSS)
  • Ballistic missile submarines (SSBN)
  • Conventional propulsion submarines (SS)
  • Fleet submarines (SF)
  • Guided missile submarines (SSGN)
  • Minelayer submarines (SM)
  • Nuclear-powered submarines (SSN)
  • Radar picket submarines (SSR)

Today, Navy subs are constructed using safer materials and methods to protect the health and well-being of their crews.

Compensation & Benefits for Veterans Exposed to Asbestos

Any Navy veteran who served or worked on a submarine before the early 1980s was put at risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses and could be eligible for VA benefits and financial compensation.

Learn more about compensation and benefits for veterans with mesothelioma below.

VA Benefits

VA benefits for mesothelioma include monthly disability payouts, access to free or affordable treatment through the VA health care system, and financial aid to the immediate family of affected veterans.

Did You Know?

Married veterans with mesothelioma can get nearly $4,000 in monthly compensation from the VA since this diagnosis is almost always granted a 100% disability rating.

Additional VA benefits are available for Navy veterans who have dependent children or who require the help of a full-time caregiver.

Asbestos Trust Funds

Asbestos trust funds are established by manufacturers of asbestos-containing products who file for bankruptcy or go out of business to avoid being sued.

These trust funds are designed to compensate current and future victims of asbestos-related diseases, including Navy veterans who worked on submarines.

If you were exposed to asbestos on submarines while serving in the Navy, you may be able to file claims with multiple trusts. More than $30 billion is available across 60+ active asbestos trust funds as of November 2023.

Our legal partners can help you access some of this money and file trust fund claims on your behalf. See if you qualify right now.

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  • $300K-$400K average compensation
  • Get money in 90 days or less

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Private Legal Claims

Legal claims are filed against the companies who manufactured asbestos products and supplied them to the U.S. Navy.

Nearly all mesothelioma claims are settled out of court, with victims and their families receiving between $1 million and $1.4 million on average.

Notable mesothelioma Navy settlements include:

  • $6.66 million for a U.S. Navy electronics technician in Texas
  • $2.8 million to the family of a Texas woman who died from mesothelioma and whose father worked as a carpenter on Navy submarines
  • $1.93 million for a Connecticut Navy veteran who served on the USS Will Rogers

You can still receive VA benefits while pursuing a mesothelioma lawsuit, and no legal action is taken against the military.

How We Can Help Veterans Exposed to Asbestos on Submarines

U.S. Navy veterans who served before the 1980s may have been exposed to asbestos on submarines. This puts them at an increased risk of developing serious illnesses like mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Hope is committed to helping U.S. veterans with mesothelioma get VA benefits, medical care, and financial aid after a diagnosis.

Your service to the nation is deeply appreciated, and we’re here to ensure you receive the support you deserve.

Call (866) 608-8933 now or download your Free Veterans Compensation Guide to get started.

FAQs About Asbestos in Submarines

Is there still asbestos on Navy ships?

No active submarines contain asbestos today, according to a 2023 review of the Naval Vessel Register.

However, nearly 400 Navy submarines contained asbestos from the 1920s until the early 1980s.

The military stopped using asbestos products to build submarines after this period.

Does the military still use asbestos?

The Navy and other branches of the military no longer use asbestos in new submarines due to the health risks.

They used asbestos-containing products in submarines for decades before the early 1980s though. Asbestos made the vessels more resistant to heat, water, and corrosion.

Once the health dangers of asbestos were made public, steps were taken to remove asbestos-based products from Navy submarines and other military assets.

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

Yes, many U.S. Navy ships besides submarines used asbestos for insulation, fireproofing, and other applications.

Asbestos could also be found in:

  • Aircraft carriers
  • Battleships
  • Cruisers
  • Destroyers
  • Frigates
  • Minesweepers
  • Other Navy vessels

If you or a family member served on a Navy ship and are now suffering from mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness, you may qualify for financial aid. Contact our Patient Advocates today to see what steps you can take.

Can you get VA disability for asbestos exposure?

Yes, you can get disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for asbestos-related conditions if you are a veteran who was exposed to asbestos during your military service.

To be eligible for VA disability compensation, you need to have an asbestos-related illness — such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer — and provide evidence that the exposure occurred during your military service.

Mesothelioma Hope can help you gather information needed to file for disability and ensure your claim is processed as quickly as possible.

We can also help you increase your existing VA disability payouts after a mesothelioma diagnosis. Call our team at (866) 608-8933 now to get started.

Attorney Brian CookeReviewed by:Brian J. Cooke

Partner at Simmons Hanly Conroy & U.S. Marine Corps Veteran

  • Fact-Checked
  • Legal Editor

Attorney Brian Cooke is a partner at Simmons Hanly Conroy and a proud U.S. Marine Corps veteran. With over 20 years of experience fighting for justice on behalf of his clients, Brian has successfully secured millions in compensation for mesothelioma patients and their families.

  • Practicing Attorney Since 2000
  • Handled Hundreds of Asbestos Cases
  • Veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps
Jenna TozziWritten 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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References
  1. Dorrian, P. (2022, February 01). General Dynamics Keeps Navy Sub Asbestos Suit in Federal Court. Retrieved February 14, 2024, 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 February 14, 2024, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2604477/
  3. Lemen, R. A., & Landrigan, P. J. (2021). Sailors and the Risk of Asbestos-Related Cancer. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(16), 8417. Retrieved February 14, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18168417
  4. Madison, J. (2022, February 01). Navy submarine manufacturer successfully removes case to federal court under Federal Officer Removal Statute. Retrieved February 14, 2024, from https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=05bfef08-5054-4a58-8e63-556a453a6ab7
  5. Naval Vessel Register. (n.d.). US Navy hulls in an ‘active’ status – all. Retrieved February 14, 2024, from https://www.nvr.navy.mil/QUICKFIND/SHIPSDETAIL_ACTIVE_ALL.HTML
  6. NTI. (n.d.). United States Active Submarines. Retrieved February 14, 2024, from http://www.nti.org/media/pdfs/united_states_active_duty_submarines.pdf?_=1341268482
  7. NTI. (2017, February 21). United States Submarine Capabilities. Retrieved February 14, 2024, from http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/united-states-submarine-capabilities/
  8. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Asbestos. (n.d.) Retrieved February 14, 2024, from https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/asbestos/index.asp
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