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Current and Former Merchant Marines at Risk for Mesothelioma

Merchant marine service has played a pivotal role in the history of the United States not only in peacetime but during wars and natural disasters as well.  The men and women that serve in the merchant marine have forged a place in history alongside their veteran compatriots through dedication, service, and sacrifice. 

Whether transporting goods and soldiers in every major conflict since World War II or providing aide during natural disasters such as hurricane Katrina, the merchant marine is simply irreplaceable.

However, many of these brave men and women are putting themselves at risk for mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer caused by asbestos

Marine vessels, especially older vessels, may contain high levels of asbestos in products such as gaskets, insulation, and even paint.  The shipbuilding industry is notorious for its use of asbestos products and while this most often comes to light when discussing U.S. Navy Veterans and mesothelioma, merchant marines are no less touched by this horrible disease.

Asbestos, especially airborne asbestos, can linger in the boiler and engine rooms, machine shops, and crew quarters of these vessels in harmful levels.  Even those crew members not employed in those high risk areas of the ships can be exposed to unsafe levels of this carcinogen through regular routine activities. 

This risk is magnified because those areas of the ship apt to contain asbestos products (crawlways, boiler rooms, furnaces) are often cramped, airless, and poorly ventilated.  That means that if airborne asbestos is present, it has nowhere to go and can linger for weeks or even years, exposing those who pass through for decades.

Merchant mariners are at an excessively high risk, when compared to the average population, of developing cancers such as mesothelioma.  In fact, a 2003 study authored by the National Health Institute determined that mesothelioma is indeed an occupational disease and that occupational exposure to asbestos significantly contributes to that elevated risk.

The list of components and products that merchant mariners are exposed to or work with is extensive and include:

  • fire bricks
  • gaskets
  • valves
  • pipe-covering
  • pumps
  • paint
  • and much more

Companies such as Babcock & Wilcox, Cleaver-Brooks, Combustion Engineering, Erie City, Foster Wheeler, Hercules Chemical, and Kewanee manufactured components and equipment which contained unsafe levels of asbestos.

While an asbestos cancer diagnosis is never good news, merchant marines who develop illness caused by these products are actually in a better legal position than their brothers and sisters in the Armed Forces.  While an enlisted sailor or soldier cannot sue the United States government, merchant mariners are not similarly restricted. 

Those affected by asbestos products can bring an asbestos lawsuit against not only the companies who manufactured the ships components (boilers, furnaces, engines, etc.) but also the companies who supplied the individual parts of those components as well, such as seals, gaskets, insulation, etc. 

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma after serving in the merchant marines, a professional mesothelioma attorney may be able to help you get the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering.  Contact us today at 415-332-4262 to see how we can help you.