Battleships and Asbestos Exposure
Battleships, huge multi-gun warships, were used extensively by the U.S. Navy during World War II and for several decades after the war. Thousands of U.S. Shipyard workers toiled on the big ships, and thousands of sailors and Marines served aboard them during their period of prominence.
Asbestos was a common material on all ships in the Navy, and battleships were no exception.
A natural mineral but a hazardous one for humans, asbestos parts existed on almost every area of a battleship, and it was used in the construction and maintenance of Navy ships into the 1970s. With so much asbestos on battleships, sailors and Marines who served on them - along with workers who built and repaired the large vessels - are more at risk for developing an asbestos related disease like mesothelioma cancer.
What Did Battleships Do?
Classified as capital ships, battleships were often used as the central point of contact or command vessel for Naval operations and groups. The busiest period of battleship building was during and just after World War II. Battleships were commissioned by and produced for the Navy in the early 20th century from the 1940s to the 1950s.
The Navy no longer has any commissioned battleships, having moved to using other vessels like aircraft carriers as capital ships. The final remaining battleships in service were removed from the Naval Register in November 2006.
Asbestos on Battleships
Among the areas on battleships that were laden with asbestos parts and producers were boiler rooms, engine rooms and common work areas. Part and products were things like insulation, lagging, wiring, instruments and pipes.
Sailors and shipyard workers were regularly exposed to asbestos particles while working. Workers' families and other shipyard employees were exposed to the dangerous dust through cross contamination by those directly working with the materials and through secondary exposure.
Crew numbers aboard these ships could exceed 500. Battleships that may have exposed workers to and sailors to dangerous asbestos particles include but aren't limited to:
- USS Alabama
- USS Arizona
- USS Arkansas
- USS California
- USS Colorado
- USS Idaho
- USS Indiana
- USS Iowa
- USS Maryland
- USS Massachusetts
- USS Mississippi
- USS Missouri
- USS Nevada
- USS New Jersey
- USS New Mexico
- USS New York
- USS North Carolina
- USS Oklahoma
- USS Pennsylvania
- USS South Dakota
- USS Tennessee
- USS Texas
- USS Utah
- USS Washington
- USS West Virginia
- USS Wisconsin
Eight shipyards were prominent in the building of battleships. Those who worked at these shipyards have a higher risk of developing an asbestos related disease like mesothelioma cancer because of the amount of potential exposure at these sites. The eight shipyards (and some of the vessels built there) are:
- Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company Yard in Newport News, Virginia (USS Indiana, USS Maryland, USS Mississippi, USS Pennsylvania, USS Texas and USS West Virginia).
- New York Naval Shipyard (USS Iowa, USS New Mexico, USS North Carolina and USS Tennessee)
- Philadelphia Naval Shipyard (USS Wisconsin, USS Washington and USS New Jersey)
- New York Ship Building Corporation in Camden, New Jersey (USS South Dakota, USS Arkansas, USS Colorado, USS Idaho, USS Oklahoma and USS Utah).
- Brooklyn Navy Yard (USS Missouri, USS Arizona and USS New York)
- Mare Island Naval Shipyard (USS California).
- Norfolk Navy Yard in Norfolk, Virginia (where the USS Alabama was built).
- And Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts (USS Nevada).