Asbestos Equipment on Navy Ships
Navy shipyards are where ships are repaired and built. Millions of civilian workers and service personnel employed at naval shipyards and commercial shipyards during World War II and the decades after were exposed to asbestos. As a result, shipyard workers and Navy veterans are at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos, as well as other asbestos-related diseases.
Workers were exposed to asbestos in different areas of the ships and shipyards when installing, inspecting, maintaining, repairing, and replacing boilers, pumps, valves, heaters, turbines, and other equipment.
Boilers are a tank for generating steam under pressure to create electricity. Asbestos was used as insulation for the inside and outside of the boiler. Materials for the interior were often firebrick or refractory cement. Asbestos covering in the form of cement or thermal insulation was usually used for external insulation.
Gaskets that contained asbestos were used on different parts of the boiler including the door, various access windows and plates, and where the boiler was connected to piping and other equipment. Asbestos packing and gaskets were used in boiler components like soot blowers, valves, and pumps.
Boiler workers installed, repaired, and replaced asbestos insulation on the interior and exterior of the boilers, creating clouds of dust in the vicinity. Gaskets and packing had to be inspected and changed regularly, further exposing workers to asbestos through this dusty process.
A turbine produces continuous power, made to revolve by steam, gas, or other fluids. Asbestos insulation was used on the interior and exterior of the turbine, often in the form of blankets or thermal insulation. Each turbine had numerous pumps and valves which required gaskets and packing that needed to be pulled off and cleaned.
Asbestos was disturbed when workers had to repair, replace, or maintain parts around the turbines, exposing workers.
Pumps take liquid and distribute it throughout the ship. Pumps are used in various parts of ships to move water and oil to the the turbines, generators, and other equipment. Types of pumps include boiler feed, condensate, saltwater, main feed booster, auxiliary condensate, auxiliary feed, drain, evaporator, flushing, brine overboard, bilge, circulating, main lube, and fire, among others. Pumps had asbestos insulation on the outside. They also contained casing gaskets and flange gaskets. High-pressure packing was used in glands to seal the pump.
Machinist’s Mate looked for wear and tear on the pumps. To change the packing, workers loosened the packing gland, pulled the asbestos packing out and cleaned up the area, causing asbestos fibers to be released in the air. Pump gaskets needed to be removed and replaced when pumps were repaired or replaced.
Pumps were opened to be cleaned and sometimes taken off the ships for cleaning, repairing, replacing, and maintaining.
Valves control the passage of fluid through a pipe to different pieces of equipment throughout ships including lube oil, globe, control, and crane valves. There were myriad valves on ships. The exterior of the valve was insulated with asbestos. Valves also contained bonnet and flange gaskets that had asbestos and asbestos packing to seal the stem.
Workers were exposed to asbestos when disassembling the equipment. Navy personnel would regularly fix leaks and check lines for maintenance. A quick fix to a leaking valve stem or a leaking pump was to add asbestos packing. The packing material in the valve can get hard and dry after being worn. Workers would wait for the systems to cool down, remove the packing material, cut the wire it was attached to, unwind the packing material, and take it off. They then pulled the packing gland off and dug out the valve packing and gaskets, causing asbestos fibers to be released in the air.
Condensers and Evaporation and Distillation Equipment
A condenser is a container that condenses vapor. Evaporators remove liquid from material. Distillers remove salt from salt water.
Workers opened, inspected, and installed cooling condensers, evaporators, and distilling equipment, including associated pumps and valves. Asbestos was used in gaskets and packing for this equipment as well as in the equipment’s insulation.
The cooling condenser was inspected by taking all the bolts out and opening inspection hatches and doors. Workers checked all sides of the gasketed condenser and then inspected ports on the evaporators. They then removed the asbestos gaskets and cleaned them by scraping and brushing them, causing asbestos fibers to be released into the air.
A machine shop is a part of a shipyard where equipment is repaired.
Various valve bonnets and pump parts that contained asbestos were brought to machine shops as workers pulled them out. They were disassembled in the machine shop and shipyard workers would repair valve seats and pump parts.
Many other types of equipment on ships used asbestos, including:
- Insulation, gaskets and packing
- Steam whistles
- Air conditioning
- Hot water heating
- Anchor windlass
- Laundry equipment
- Air compressors
- Galley equipment
- Ice machines
When ships went into port or dry dock, extensive work was performed on the ship and its equipment. In certain cases, major refitting and modernization projects were executed. Shipyard workers were exposed to asbestos during ship construction and overhauls. Symptoms of asbestos disease typically take 30 to 50 years to appear, so workers at shipyards in the 1960s or 1970s may only recently have developed mesothelioma.
Belluck & Fox Represents Yardbirds and Veterans Against Asbestos Companies
If you are a Navy veteran or a shipyard worker who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may have a legal right to financial compensation from the manufacturers that provided the asbestos you were exposed to. Visit our directory of navy shipyards for more information.
Belluck & Fox, LLP is a nationally recognized New York law firm that represents civilian and veteran shipyard workers with asbestos and mesothelioma claims. Our lawyers recently secured a $32 million verdict for a Navy veteran exposed during his service. We can help protect you and your family.