Asbestos and the U.S. Coast Guard

Quick Summary

Those who served in the U.S. Coast Guard were at risk of asbestos exposure throughout the 20th century. Coast Guard service members often worked aboard ships or flew aircraft built with asbestos. This mineral has a proven link to mesothelioma and other serious diseases.

Asbestos Exposure in the Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard keeps America’s borders safe. The Coast Guard has protected waterways for centuries, saving countless lives in the process.

Though the Coast Guard is only 1/10th of the Navy’s size, its role is unique. The Coast Guard must enforce rules, regulations, and laws while serving as a branch of the military during wartime.

The many duties of the Coast Guard put its members at risk every day. However, thousands who served in the Coast Guard may have been put in unseen danger. This is because asbestos was frequently used in military assets as it was cheap and very powerful.

From the 1930s to the early 1980s, asbestos could be found in: 

  • Ships
  • Aircraft
  • Bases

Asbestos is fireproof and a powerful insulator. It also resists electricity and water. However, asbestos was actually very dangerous.

Asbestos is made up of tiny fibers, and if the fibers are disturbed, humans can breathe them. The fibers remain in the body and can eventually cause cancer or other diseases.

Fortunately, Coast Guard veterans can receive benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and mesothelioma legal claims. The best way to file these claims is through a mesothelioma law firm.

How Did Asbestos Pose a Threat?

As Coast Guard assets like ships and bases were built and used, asbestos fibers were released into the surrounding air. When inhaled by Coast Guard personnel, these fibers would get stuck in their bodies and eventually cause diseases like mesothelioma.

It takes 20-50 years for mesothelioma to develop, so many Coast Guard veterans are being diagnosed long after they served. Once the disease develops, it is very aggressive and almost always fatal. However, emerging treatments show promise for extending the lifespan.

Did You Know?

Throughout the mid-1980s, the U.S. government ordered asbestos-containing materials to be removed to protect those who serve. However, thousands of Coast Guard personnel had already been exposed.

How Were Coast Guard Veterans Exposed?

Coast Guard personnel were exposed to asbestos through numerous military assets. For much of the 20th century, almost everyone in the Coast Guard was exposed in some way to asbestos.

However, certain military personnel ran a high risk of exposure.

Those who ran the highest risk included:

Construction Workers

Coast Guard bases, barracks, and offices frequently used asbestos in the walls, roofs, and flooring. This helped keep bases resistant to fire and water damage.

Though everyone who spent time in these buildings was potentially at risk, the Coast Guard members who built them were in especially high danger. Coast Guard construction workers came in contact with asbestos-based insulation, cement, and paint.

If they had to demolish or repair asbestos-based buildings, asbestos fibers could be released into the surrounding air. This would not only endanger them but other nearby Coast Guard personnel.


The Coast Guard frequently uses helicopters to intercept potential air threats and perform rescues at sea. They may also use other aircraft for various missions. Helicopters and other aircraft were often built with parts containing asbestos before the material was linked to deadly diseases.

Helicopter engines, brakes, and rotary wings used with asbestos-based materials to keep them working longer. When Coast Guard mechanics would repair or replace these parts, they put themselves in direct risk of asbestos exposure.

Ship Personnel

Much like the Navy ships, Coast Guard vessels once contained a huge assortment of asbestos products. Asbestos was present almost everywhere in these ships, including personnel quarters, wall insulation, engine and boiler rooms, and in much of their equipment.

Long-term exposure to asbestos often occurred in Coast Guard cutters. The term “cutter” refers to ships that are part of the Coast Guard’s active fleet. They are designed to have a full crew live on board for lengthy missions.

Cutters that were used in the mid-20th century were built with massive amounts of asbestos. They were often cramped and had poor ventilation, increasing the likelihood of exposure. As asbestos-based products aged aboard these ships, they were more likely to break down and release fibers into the air.

Shipyard Workers

Coast Guard workers who built or worked on ships ran the highest risk of asbestos exposure. Shipbuilding essentially combined the risks of serving on a ship with that of mechanical work.

Coast Guard shipyard workers had to build, install, or repair equipment that could be lethal to those who served on the ship. Even shipyard workers who performed general maintenance had a higher risk of asbestos exposure.

What Products Posed a Risk?

As Coast Guard personnel worked and served, they may have been exposed to asbestos from many different products.

Common asbestos-containing products included:

  • Boilers
  • Ceiling and floor tiles
  • Electrical wires
  • Gaskets
  • Heat-resistant gloves and clothing
  • Insulation
  • Motor systems
  • Pipes
  • Ship doors

Coast Guard Veterans and Mesothelioma Help

Since the Coast Guard is not as large as the Army, Navy, or Air Force, there are less reported cases of mesothelioma from this branch. However, that does not mean Coast Guard veterans are at a decreased risk.

In recent years, thousands of military veterans have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused disease. Mesothelioma has no cure. Without treatment, it can be lethal in months.

If you or someone you love served in the Coast Guard and was diagnosed with mesothelioma, treatments can extend your life. However, these treatments can be expensive. A mesothelioma law firm can help you afford them.

Sokolove Law has over 40 years of experience in handling legal claims. We can help you pursue monthly financial aid through the VA. Depending on your claim, you could qualify for pension plans, health insurance, survivor benefits, and many other helpful services.

Sokolove Law has VA-accredited attorneys on its staff who can help secure these benefits. Our attorneys can also help you pursue legal claims against asbestos manufacturers. This legal action can help you earn even more financial compensation.

You will not sue the Coast Guard or the U.S. government, but your suit may include the companies that sold asbestos products to them without warning of the dangers.

To get started and get a free case review, call (800) 647-3434 or fill out our contact form.

Author:Sokolove Law
Sokolove Law

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and mesothelioma attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of mesothelioma and their families.

Last modified: August 5, 2019