Of all the branches in the military, veteran ship builders, longshoremen and servicemen from the Navy run the highest risk of exposure to asbestos. It was common practice to use products containing asbestos in shipyards and on ships of all kinds built before 1980. Even after this time period, servicemen who performed repairs, renovations, or demolition on ships built earlier were likely exposed to asbestos.
Asbestos is most dangerous when inhaled or ingested. Navy personnel were particularly at risk because of the tight, enclosed spaces in which they had to work and live for long periods of time. Boiler rooms and other areas below deck heavily used asbestos products for fire safety and insulation purposes. ACMs were also prevalent in sleeping quarters, mess halls, and navigation rooms. It was virtually impossible for many years to avoid coming into to contact with asbestos if you worked on or aboard a navy vessel.
Not only servicemen from the Navy, but also those from the Air Force, Marine Corps, Army, and soldiers from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars run a high risk of exposure. ACMs were used in pipes, walls, doors, flooring, ceiling tiles, insulation, cement, brakes, gaskets and valves throughout all branches of the military.
Service members often were not given any warning, training or respiratory or personal protective gear when loading, handling, installing, repairing, or removing asbestos products. Veterans with the highest risk of asbestos exposure worked before the 1990s in the following occupations: