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Merchant Marines Asbestos Exposure

From the Revolutionary War to the invasion of Iraq, sailors in America’s merchant marines have played a critical role in the transportation of military goods and supplies to locations around the globe. During World War II, more than 200,000 mariners served with the merchant marines, transporting millions of tons of goods to Europe and the Pacific. Over subsequent decades, the merchant marines have played an important role in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War and current U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Between the late 1920s and 1975, many of the ships used by the merchant marines contained large amounts of asbestos for fireproofing and insulation. Areas of the ship that created or were exposed to large amounts of heat—such as boilers, turbines, pumps or exhaust systems—frequently used parts or materials containing asbestos. Some of the ship parts with asbestos components included pipes, cables, gaskets, floor or ceiling panels and engine room equipment. Asbestos was also sometimes sprayed on certain areas of the ship to provide insulation.

While asbestos could be found on smaller ships (such as towboats, dredges, ferries and tugboats), larger vessels—including passenger or cargo ships, container ships, petroleum tankers, vehicle carriers and chemical tankers—sometimes contained between 500 and 1,000 tons of asbestos materials. Some vessels may also have carried asbestos-containing materials as part of their onboard cargo.

When the asbestos materials onboard merchant marine ships were disturbed, they could cause asbestos fibers to become airborne. Because asbestos is extremely toxic, inhaling or ingesting these fibers could lead to a number of serious and potentially deadly diseases—including mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer.

Although some veterans of the merchant marines were exposed to asbestos decades ago, many have only recently begun to develop symptoms of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. In some cases, it may take up to 50 years before a merchant marine who was exposed to asbestos receives a mesothelioma diagnosis.

If you are a veteran of American’s merchant marines and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer or another form of cancer, contact the law office of Hissey Kientz to learn more about your legal rights. You can speak to one of our representatives by calling toll-free at (866) 275-4454, or by filling out a free case evaluation to the right of this page.

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