Aircraft Mechanic Asbestos Exposure
Why They Are at a Heightened Risk for Mesothelioma
Are you the victim of asbestos exposure and diagnosed with mesothelioma? Do you suspect that the exposure came when you worked on the flight deck or below on aircraft carriers?
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys are legal advocates for mesothelioma patients harmed by their employers and other third parties. Contact our mesothelioma injury law office today at (888) 424-5757 or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation.
All sensitive or confidential information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.
An aircraft carrier mechanic works in highly technical specialty professions involving the service and repair of an aircraft carrier and jet engines. Asbestos was once a significant component in many of these components, and workers who worked in commercial aviation may have been exposed to high levels of airborne asbestos fibers.
A light aircraft carrier such as the Nimitz class is a military vessel used to develop the strength and proficiency of pilots, aircrews, officers, and seamen in handling sea-borne aircraft on aircraft carriers such as the Gerald R Ford aircraft carrier.
The Nimitz class aircraft carriers contain large amounts of asbestos joint compounds used for rubber gaskets and other materials. As a result, any worker who worked on these ships could be exposed to substantial levels of asbestos dust over extended periods.
Super Aircraft Carriers
The aircraft carriers’ fleet is a class of military vessels serving as air bases for cargo-topping aircraft. The original one commissioned by the U.S. Navy was in March 1922, USS Langley (CV-1). All other ships brought into service and currently active become super aircraft carriers.
The list does not include several amphibious assault warfare ships that can be deployed as an aircraft carrier force if necessary, during wartime.
Therefore, this article will focus only on large surface warships with an aviation flight deck with fueling stations and hangar space for most active U.S. Naval combat aircraft types - including helicopters, fighter jets like F18s over 20 feet long staged by the hangars and ready to launch at a moment's notice!
The History of Asbestos Use in Aircraft Carrier Mechanics
Asbestos was widely used as fire-retardant insulation and heat damage prevention on the aircraft carrier's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. It is also used to make valves, gaskets, hydraulic hoses, transmission belts, and fuel lines that would need to withstand high temperatures and pressures.
Since the workers would need easy access to these components to replace them, they are often located in areas with minimal cabin pressure that technicians could easily access.
Some major aircraft companies, including Boeing and Lockheed Martin, have been liable for damages to aircraft workers due to their asbestos-containing products.
Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure
Even in small doses, released asbestos dust has the potential to cause mesothelioma (a cancer of the protective lining surrounding internal organs) and other deadly diseases.
Many people exposed to asbestos will have no symptoms or issues for years after exposure. However, it can take years between initial exposure and disease development, so it is essential to be prepared for any potential respiratory conditions from the start.
Asbestos-related diseases are usually indicated by symptoms such as chest pain or difficulty breathing. In severe cases, they may also result in coughing up blood, fatigue, and weight loss.
Aircraft Carriers Used in World War II
During and after World War II, aircraft carriers played a massive role in transporting troops and supplies much faster than by boat or land-based vehicles.
The amphibious assault was helpful during the D-Day invasion at Normandy. In addition, it was the first aircraft carrier launched in the 1900s.
After the war ended, many of these ships used for the amphibious assault were sold or sent into storage and scrapped, leaving only a few standard aircraft carriers and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers today. By 2020, the U.S. still had less than 45 aircraft carriers in service.
In addition, multiple naval vessels have been designated as aircraft carriers throughout history. They were designed, built, and used primarily as warships, but their capabilities allowed them to be used as an air force when necessary.
Today's Aircraft Carriers
During World War II, Japan and the United States had multiple aircraft carriers regularly used in combat. On the other hand, Italy had few aircraft carriers to operate but not as effective as the ones used by the U.S. and Japan. Nevertheless, both Japanese and American carriers played a massive role in their respective victories at sea.
CVA (attack aircraft carriers), CVAN (nuclear-powered aircraft carriers), CVB (large aircraft carriers), CVL (small aircraft carriers), CVN (nuclear-powered aircraft carrier), CVS (anti-submarine warfare support aircraft carriers), CVT (training aircraft carriers) and CVE (escort aircraft carriers) are all types of carriers that the U.S. Navy used since World War II.
Many of these aircraft carriers were given modified designations since World War II. On December 7, 1941 (the first day of World War II in the United States), aircraft carriers became the dominant combat ship used in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Types of Asbestos Exposure for Aircraft Mechanics
Several different components in a plane could contain asbestos because it is highly resistant to heat, fire, water, electricity, and other durable substances.
According to the Asbestos Guide, there were three types of airborne asbestos exposure that were more commonly used in the past than in the present:
- Nuclear powered aircraft carrier service mechanic/support personnel
When airplanes are built or refurbished, workers can come into direct contact with asbestos-laden materials. The workers are exposed because they need to repair piping, brakes, and other essential components regularly.
Asbestos is typically located in these types of situations:
- HVAC systems (heating vents, ductwork, etc.)
- Electrical components
- In flooring, walls, and ceilings
Occupational Diseases From Asbestos Exposure
Working on an aircraft carrier or any military vessel typically carries a much higher risk of developing cancer. Technicians that work in the support department of commercial airline companies could be at risk.
Even if they do not contact the material, just being around it often can lead to harmful effects on the body. After leaving the job, a former technician could be at risk for developing asbestos cancer months or even years later.
According to the Mayo Clinic, asbestos can cause mesothelioma and asbestosis after constant exposure. It typically takes 20-50 years for symptoms to appear after being exposed to asbestos. As a result, many workers are not even aware of their condition until it's too late.
Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Navy
According to Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, all employees have a right to a safe workplace. If they are not receiving this type of treatment from their employer, they must contact OSHRC immediately. The following actions are violations of the law:
- Working with or around asbestos without proper precautions
- Refusing to provide employees with protective gear and training on how to use it
All U.S. Navy mechanics should follow strict safety measures when working on nuclear-powered aircraft carrier ships in service and other gadgets installed with asbestos. As long as they are protected from airborne asbestos and get regular checkups, they can avoid developing a serious illness later in life.
Types of Asbestos Exposure for Mechanics
According to the Asbestos Guide, there were three kinds of airborne asbestos exposure that were more common occupations in danger of asbestos exposure in the past than in the present:
- Aircraft carrier technicians/support personnel
- Construction Workers
- Shipyard Workers and Veterans
- Insulators – Electrical, Power Plant, Telephone Transmission
- Power Plant Workers (Steam and Electric)
- Railroad Workers
- Furnace/Boiler Construction, Repair, support, and Operation
- Welders or Welder Assistants
- Paper Mill Workers (with asbestos fibers)
Asbestos Exposure During Repairs
Regardless of asbestos used inside or outside of a plane, mechanics and other workers must be protected while working. While performing preservation work, most companies will spray materials containing asbestos with water for easy clean-up.
Asbestos Exposure Training for U.S. Navy Mechanics
After the water is sprayed on, it is common for workers to use compressed air to remove excess moisture. Unfortunately, asbestos fibers float in the air once this occurs and can be inhaled by anyone within range.
Suppose a mechanic or worker does not know that asbestos is present. In that case, they will believe that it is safe to breathe these particles when the hazard is present.
As a result, they can become ill from being exposed to asbestos without realizing what has happened.
The technicians should use the following protective gear when handling asbestos:
- Airline Respirators (PAPRs)– These devices usually contain full face masks that must be tested before each use. Technicians must follow the instructions carefully to ensure that it provides them with adequate safety from asbestos.
- Coveralls– These garments should also be tested for proper functionality before being worn.
- Goggles, Face Shield, and Gloves– These items can provide extra protection during the repair process.
- Safety Shoes– workers should wear shoes containing safety features, such as steel toes or puncture-proof soles that can help protect the feet from sharp objects and any debris on the ground.
Technicians must take advantage of any training courses that their company offers. In addition, they need to learn how to use the proper protective gear, which items must be cleaned before handling, and other necessary precautions for their safety.
Long Term Effects of Asbestos Exposure in Planes
Asbestos fibers can be embedded into the skin, and they can cause scarring and tissue damage over time. When this occurs, there will be an increased risk for the development of asbestos-related diseases. Dangers include:
Mesothelioma is one of the most dangerous forms of cancer that can occur, and it will cause a great deal of pain.
- Lung Plaque– This condition causes inflammation surrounding the lungs, making it difficult for air to reach the tissue in this area. It can also result in scarring and lung damage from asbestos fibers.
- Other Diseases– Many different conditions can result from asbestos exposure in U.S. Navy planes. They include asbestosis, pleural plaque, peritoneal fibrosis, pericardium effusion, and heart disease caused by tuberculosis.
Legal Help for Mechanics Who Have Been Exposed to Asbestos on Planes
Technicians exposed to asbestos while working on planes may be entitled to compensation for their injuries due to this exposure. First, however, they should contact an attorney specializing in these cases and carefully explain their rights under local laws.
A good lawyer will work hard to determine you have a valid claim, search for evidence, and build a solid case to obtain the maximum amount of compensation possible.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has strict regulations that each employer must follow. However, these rules are useless unless workers know their rights and safety procedures to avoid harmful asbestos exposure.
Failing to train an employee on asbestos exposure safety could be ground for a case.
Protecting Workers From Asbestos Exposure in The U.S. Navy Supply System
By the end of 1942, the United States Navy had produced more ships than any other branch of service and was a significant naval power concentrated on both coasts and the Pacific Ocean.
In 1943, the Bureau of Ships (BuShips) became the U.S. Navy's ship design, construction, and support command. In 1944, BuShips was reorganized into four significant directorates: Operations; Maintenance; Planning and Material (PM); and Technical Data.
Asbestos in U.S. Navy Planes
In 1943, Mr. W.J. Dickman entered service as an aircraft carrier mechanic with the U.S. Navy Supply Corps in San Diego, CA. He worked close to a shop that fabricated and installed flooring materials for Navy planes.
As a result of his proximity to this work, he became an asbestos victim. In 1945, the Navy doctors determined that "lung carcinoma" had developed due to asbestos exposure. Mr. Dickman died in 1945 from this disease.
Asbestos Exposure in U.S. Navy Ships
The U.S. Navy has nearly 1,000 ships at least 25 years old and still in service, including more than 300 active-duty warships. In addition, about 700 are non-commissioned support ships. Of these, over 500 U.S. Navy ships, vessels, and aircraft carriers are contaminated with asbestos-containing materials (ACM).
The highest rates of exposure are in Navy ships built from the 1930s through the 1970s. The most significant risk factors are material age, shipyard-based jobs, and proximity to asbestos-containing materials.
Asbestos in U.S. Navy Ships - Indoor Air Quality Matters
The deadly fibers can linger in homes, clothing, and shoes. They can also enter the living space through the air conditioning vents and heating ducts.
Home health experts recommend that U.S. Navy base housing occupants keep their home's ventilation systems clean and free from asbestos fibers. In addition, ventilate the house frequently to rid it of any contaminated air.
Asbestos Exposure Claims Against The U.S. Government
Most veterans who filed asbestos claims against the government were exposed to asbestos while serving in the U.S. Navy.
Many veterans worked in yards, engine rooms, and other parts of Naval ships that contained asbestos. Others were exposed to dangerous, toxic materials while serving aboard submarines.
Veterans Exposed to Asbestos While Serving in the U.S. Navy
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a particular program for veterans whose health was compromised while serving in the U.S. Navy. The Department of Veterans Affairs makes medical coverage available for asbestos-related illnesses considered service-connected for these veterans.
Asbestos Exposure in the Merchant Marine
The shipyards and repair facilities used by the Maritime Administration and its predecessor agencies have had high levels of airborne asbestos exposure.
Studies conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have documented that workers employed in shipyards by the United States Maritime Administration, its predecessor agencies, or commercial owners were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1980.
Asbestos Abatement Payments for Veterans Exposed to Asbestos on Planes or Ships
The Veterans Administration pays for the removal of asbestos from private homes. The VA also pays for medical treatment when veterans' illnesses are related to their U.S. Navy or Merchant Marine service.
U.S. Navy Duty and Foreign Birthplaces Linked to Mesothelioma
Years ago, doctors diagnosed patients with these illnesses only after they exhibited severe symptoms of the disease. Today, new testing technologies and procedures enable physicians to detect mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases at a much earlier stage.
Early detection has led to improved patient care and survival rates. However, the increase in diagnoses has produced an onslaught of mesothelioma claims against the government.
Asbestos Exposure - U.S. Navy Veterans
U.S. Navy veterans who worked on Navy ships are entitled to receive compensation from the Veterans Administration. Their sickness or death from mesothelioma or asbestosis must be linked to exposure to asbestos. The V.A.'s asbestos trust fund currently has $4 billion available, which will provide compensation for those veterans who qualify.
The U.S. Navy has already acknowledged that asbestos exposure contributed to the deaths and sickness of thousands of its sailors, including members who worked on commissioned submarines or other ships from World War II through the Vietnam era.
The government has also identified two dozen naval vessels, mostly destroyers or cruisers built before 1980, most likely used with asbestos insulation. As a result, veterans who served on any ship, including aircraft carriers, could potentially claim compensation for their exposure and resulting illness or death from mesothelioma or an asbestos-related disease.
All veterans exposed to asbestos while serving in the U.S. Navy are encouraged to contact a qualified mesothelioma lawyer. The V.A.'s compensation for U.S. Navy veterans goes beyond money. It includes no-cost medical care, disability benefits, and even burial services in a national cemetery.
The V.A. also provides counseling about filing claims against asbestos manufacturers and others who may be responsible for your injuries or death.
The V.A. will pay disability benefits for conditions that are considered service related. They only recognize four diseases related to asbestos exposure: Mesothelioma (cancer of the pleura), Asbestosis, Lung Cancer, Primary malignant tumors of the bronchus or lung.
The V.A. may pay disability benefits for other conditions if your local U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs office determines its service-connected disease or injury, and it is not listed above as a separate listing.
Navy veterans who served on commissioned U.S. Navy ships may have been exposed to asbestos insulation and other products containing this toxic mineral.
U.S. Navy veterans who served at least one day between September 25, 1945, and January 1, 1977, are covered for service-connected diseases regardless of when they were diagnosed with the disease. Various factors determine whether your condition is service-connected:
- The date you served
- The nature of your service
- Whether asbestos-laden products were used in your work environment
- The duration of your asbestos exposure
The nature and duration of exposure determine whether the following diseases are service connected:
- Asbestosis pleural plaques (abnormal tissue growths)
- Mesothelioma Lung Cancer
- Adenocarcinoma of the lung.
- All other forms of lung cancer
- Malignant mesothelioma of the peritoneum
- Malignant mesothelioma of the pleura
- Primary malignant neoplasms
Do you require disability benefits for a service-related diagnosis? Even if it is not related to asbestos, you must submit a claim. Veterans previously denied disability benefits should re-apply soon.
If your claim was rejected and you did not appeal the decision, you likely have one year from the date of denial to apply again.
Cancer Caused by Asbestos Exposure in Aerospace Work Environments
Aircraft mechanic work environments are full of airborne asbestos fibers and dust particles because of chipping, drilling, sanding, or other activities that may produce airborne asbestos.
Although these airborne fibers and dust particles appear harmless, they can be very dangerous to the aircraft technician's health. These airborne fibers and dust particles contain asbestos. They are one of the most hazardous carcinogens artificial products ever invented.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), all types of asbestos could cause cancer, including white crystalline, amphibole, anthophyllite, and crocidolite.
Although the health effects caused by asbestos on aircraft carrier technicians are not immediate, they can be lethal in the long run. Long-term asbestos exposure can lead to lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare type of lung disease almost always fatal.
Although OSHA has established a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for asbestos in work environments. Aircraft workers are at risk of developing diseases caused by long-term exposure to airborne fibers and dust particles.
Airborne Fibers and Cancer
Long-term exposure to airborne fibers and dust particles containing asbestos can cause cancer, especially lung cancer. Asbestos fibers are so tiny that they reach deep into the lungs whenever any worker inhales them.
Aircraft carrier technicians are at risk for lung cancer because they inhale high airborne fibers when working with this hazardous material. In addition, asbestos fibers and dust produce inflammation, swelling, or irritation inside the respiratory tract whenever airborne fibers are present.
The body naturally fights back against these foreign particles by producing antibodies. However, these antibodies are inefficient in removing the growing asbestos fibers and dust because of their small size.
The high amount of inflammation caused by airborne fibers can cause permanent damage to the lungs, leading to cancerous tumor growths.
OSHA and Asbestos Exposure
According to OSHA, there is no exact number or ratio for the correlation of asbestos exposure to lung cancer. However, they did establish a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for airborne fibers in human work environments because workers can develop cancerous tumors from long-term asbestos exposures.
The OSHA PEL for airborne fibers is two fiber/cubic centimeters (f/cc) averaged over eight hours during an hour-long sampling period. Asbestos is coated with a thin layer of magnesium that protects human cells from the harmful effects of this fibrous mineral.
However, exposure to airborne and dust can wear off this magnesium layer and expose asbestos fibers to the surrounding cells. Thus, this thin layer of magnesium is not enough to protect human cells from the harmful effects of asbestos, thus leading to cell death and potential lung cancers.
Although mesothelioma is rare in the U.S., it has the highest mortality rate among all kinds of tumors and has no known cure.
Asbestos Exposure at Work: A Closer Look at Maritime Jobs
In the maritime industry, workers are at risk of asbestos exposure every day they come to work. Sailors, deckhands, and boat repair workers are most at risk.
All these jobs have one thing in common: regular servicing under the sun on watercraft where asbestos-containing materials (ACM) are installed. If ACM is not correctly maintained, airborne asbestos fibers are released into the air that workers breathe in or ingest.
The investigation into asbestos exposure on ships found that asbestos is primarily used in gaskets, packing material, cement, and coatings found on deck machinery and ship structures from the engine room to the captain's cabin.
For example, based on a survey of 4500 workers from 1980-1985, these are some findings:
- About 80% of engine room workers (such as boilerman and engineers) had been exposed to asbestos.
- Worker surveys revealed that 75% of the deck crew had worked on asbestos-containing equipment without respiratory protection.
- Engine room and deck crew had higher asbestos fiber levels in their lungs than other workers, even though they were not working directly with the material. Many were exposed to asbestos through contact with linings, pipes, gaskets, and seals on the vessels where they worked.
Since these jobs are usually done outdoors or in ventilated areas, it is easy for fibers to escape when ACM comes loose and falls away from the insulation.
"Even when asbestos is not disturbed, it can enter your body if you breathe in air or particles containing asbestos. Once inside your body, these fibers stick to cells lining your lungs and abdomen. Then, over some time, the fibers outside your cells dissolve, releasing chemicals that cause inflammation and irritation to the surrounding tissue," said NIOSH.
For sailing professions, exposure may occur on vessels where ACM is installed and when maintaining personal watercraft (PWC) with ACM parts. PWC manufacturers had used asbestos in engine gaskets as late as 1998.
As a result, exposed individuals can experience asbestos-related diseases such as malignant mesothelioma years after exposure to the material.
Hiring a Mesothelioma Attorney to Resolve Your Personal Injury Case
Did you work on the flight deck or below deck on aircraft carriers recently or decades ago? Were you subjected to asbestos exposure that led to your mesothelioma?
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, our personal injury attorneys can fight on your behalf to ensure you receive the compensation your family deserves to ensure your quality of life. Call our law firm today at (888) 424-5757 or use the contact form to schedule a no-obligation consultation at no charge to you.
All surviving family members who lost a loved one through mesothelioma or other asbestos-related injuries can file a wrongful death lawsuit. We can work on your behalf to ensure you receive compensation that could include hospitalization, medical bills, lost wages, future lost earnings, pain, suffering, loss of consortium & companionship, grief, and funeral & burial costs.
We accept all personal injury claims and wrongful death lawsuits through a contingency fee agreement. This arrangement ensures you are not charged any upfront fees until we resolve your case through a negotiated settlement or jury trial award.