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Military Cruisers

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Mesothelioma and Military Cruisers

Although the size of cruisers changed over the years, by the beginning of the 20th century, these warships become more standardized. They were larger than a destroyer, but definitely smaller than a battleship. In 1922, as a result of the Washington Naval Treaty, the cruiser had to conform to a specific standard of not exceeding 10,000 tons of displacement. Also, they could only be armed with guns no larger than eight inches in caliber.

The US Navy Builds Heavy Cruisers for use During World War II

The terms of the Washington Treaty regarding standardization of cruisers was extended in 1930 with the signing of the London Treaty. This treaty actually created the definitions of heavy and light cruisers. Vessels with 10,000 tons of displacement and that were armed with guns larger than 6.1 inches were classified as heavy cruisers.

The U.S. Navy built the Baltimore class heavy cruiser to protect air craft carriers that were part of carrier battle groups. These cruisers had powerful anti-aircraft carrier armament in addition to eight inch guns and smaller sized guns. The Baltimore class also served as a cover for amphibious landings by bombarding land targets.

The Navy’s Heavy Cruisers Were Filled With Asbestos

Like other Navy ships, asbestos products were used extensively on cruisers. Asbestos was used to coat pipes, provide fire protection in engine rooms and as insulation throughout the ship.

The Nature of the Cruiser’s Mission Made its Crew Extremely Susceptible to Asbestos Exposure

These vessels were in constant use during the war, subjecting them to extreme wear and tear from the physical abuse caused by the act of sailing. This caused the disintegrating asbestos to become loosened and fly into the air where it was inhaled by crew members.

The vibrations of the ocean weren’t the only catalyst for asbestos to become airborne. The cruisers were carrying a number of different types of armaments that were in continuous use during their many missions. The vibrations from these guns were another reason that asbestos was shaken loose and sent into the air.

The level of asbestos exposure was intensified because the hull of all naval were enclosed, and there was virtually no circulation of air. This meant that the crew breathed in greater concentrations of asbestos; and the problem become worse as the war continued and the ships aged.

Older Cruisers May Have Exposed Gulf War Veterans to Asbestos

A cruiser built by South Korea called the Atlantic Freighter was used by the U.S. Military Sealift Command in 1990. It was also employed for supply missions during the Gulf War.

The ship’s owner, the Crown Corporation, made it known in 2007 that although asbestos was discovered aboard ship in 1990, it was not removed before its use in the Gulf War. Crown Corporation advised both former and current crew members to be tested for mesothelioma.

The USS Worden was another older vessel used in the Persian Gulf, having been built in 1961 when the Navy was still heavily reliant on asbestos products.

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