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Individuals who volunteer to serve in our country’s defense system have throughout our history made some of the greatest sacrifices imaginable and have confronted dangerous situations in all corners of the world. Unfortunately for many of our volunteer service men and women, one of the greatest dangers came from an unexpected source: the heavy use of asbestos in ships, planes, military equipment and lodging. Today we are well aware of the risks that asbestos poses to humans, but for decades those who dedicated their lives to serving our country were exposed to this deadly fiber with no warning about the dangers involved, and thousands of them have developed mesothelioma or lung cancer decades after their service ended.

In addition to the four main branches our country’s military system, some of those most affected by asbestos exposure have been the men and women who enlisted in the United States Coast Guard. Charged with protecting our maritime economy and environment and defending our maritime borders, the Coast Guard has long played an important role in our nation’s defense system. Those who have bravely served in this fifth branch of the armed forces are among the service members who suffered some of the highest levels of asbestos exposure.

Asbestos, given its effectiveness as a fire retardant as well as a thermal and electric insulator, was used heavily by military ship builders. Between the 1930s and 1970s, asbestos was used extensively on nearly every commissioned vessel. Up until the 1980’s, asbestos was also used in living quarters for Coast Guardsmen. Asbestos was used in floor tiles, ceiling tiles and outdoor siding and roofing. It was also used to insulate around pipes that ran throughout the ships and was sprayed on various surfaces to provide fireproofing or sound dampening. Much of the heat-generating equipment on ships—such as boilers—were coated with asbestos.

While thousands of individuals who served in the Coast Guard were exposed to asbestos, there were some positions that led to even greater exposure because workers were required to work directly with asbestos. People who were employed as shipyard workers, pipefitters, boiler workers, electricians, plumbers and insulators likely suffered greater exposure to asbestos. Coast Guard service men and women were literally breathing asbestos on a daily basis, often in severely confined spaces. Today many of them are unfortunately paying the price of this exposure with their health.

Seeking recovery from the government as a result of asbestos exposure can be complicated for members of the military, including the Coast Guard. Normal avenues of recovery—such as the court system—are not available to service members since the government’s responsibility is limited to paying service connected disability and providing care through the VA hospital system, so other methods are necessary. Having the assistance of an experience asbestos law firm, such as Kazan Law, can be crucial to holding the manufacturers and civilian installers of these deadly asbestos products responsible, thus making sure that those who were willing to give their lives for our country are taken care of in return.


  1. Gravatar for William H Burghart
    William H Burghart

    To whom this concerns; I spent 4 years in the US Coast Guard.In the early part 0f 1970 our ship that I was assighn to the Us Coast Guard Cutter Spencer WHEC 36 was sent to the USCG yard in Curtis Bay,MD.The ship which I was permantley assighn to was drydocked for approx,5 to 6 months.This Particular name of a total demolishing of berthing areas,this included tearing out insulation on piping,ductwork,overheads,etc.As a Electricians Mate 3rd. class I was in this fog of dust all around and just about anywhere you were on during working hours from 8am. to 4:30 pm. All of us lived in the BBarracks,about 60 bunks or more after working hours. This Demo was done by the shipyard workers at Curtis Bay.I remember coughing sometimes,but at about 20 years old I did not know why,just stayed on board and did some electrical work as assighned.I am diagnosed in my Dept of Veteran affairs health record,since about 2005 as having COPD all I get from the VA is a rescue inhaler.I am gettingn somewhat worse,my private outside Phyiscian is a Pulmenary Specialist he holds private records of this also.All that what I have said is true to the very best of my knowledge.Wheezing when I sleep at night is a common occurance to this day,June 6th. 2011.I think the VA is Hiding something from us Veterans.I also am employed with the Va for the past 11 years.I am approaching the age of 62 in November 2011 I am thinking of retirement because my legs get weak alot and have Nerve damage in my legs.I spend most of my weekends resting up for the next week ahead.My Civllian and Military time with the US Government add up to almost 26 years.14 years with the coast guard about 4 years with DOD,Military Sealift Command and the rest to now with the VA. all 26 years as an Electrician.If you want anymore information,contact me by,via email or telephone#432-517-4118,leave message. Email, I am willing to take a polygraph test if you doubt me. Thank You; Very Sincerely; William Burghart

  2. Gravatar for Steven Kazan

    Thank you Mr Burghart for sharing your service history with us.

    This story is very typical of the ways in which those who served our country at sea were exposed to asbestos- at sea, during shipyard availabilities for dry dock repair, renovation, and routine maintenance, in old barracks ashore. electricians and all other below deck trades were exposed through their own work, the work of shipmates, and the work of shipyard crews as well. All of this put you and your shipmates at real risk for the development of asbestos related diseases and disability. Of course, whether anyone's risk has or will ripen into actual disease can only be determined on a case by case basis, since fortunately not everyone at risk does actually get sick.

    We are available to provide that case by case assessment to all who served, on a private one to one basis, and at no cost.

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