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Michael Stevens, a former member of the Merchant Navy, died from repeated asbestos exposure and subsequent malignant mesothelioma. He was 83.
Similarly to the Merchant Marine in the United States, the Merchant Navy operates on behalf of the United Kingdom. Formerly established and nationally recognized by King George V after World War I, the Merchant Navy served a pivotal role not only in the Great War but also in World War II. These privately operated vessels supported the Royal Navy's efforts during times of conflict.
Michael Stevens worked in the Merchant Navy for nearly 8 years between 1946 and 1958. Working as a deckhand, Stevens regularly came into contact with asbestos, according to reports. Asbestos pipe “lagging” or insulating covering broke off and was released into the air while Stevens was present.
Stevens passed away in mid August and the medical findings resulting from his death suggest that not only did he pass away from malignant mesothelioma, the coroner found asbestos fibers in his lungs.
Malignant mesothelioma, along with other forms of mesothelioma cancer, all result from asbestos exposure. Affecting anywhere from the lungs, heart and stomach, asbestos fibers become embedded into the soft, protective tissue.
Navy veterans especially were at high risk of exposure to asbestos from their time served on ships and submarines. Asbestos was a key material used in shipbuilding and was often found from bow to stern, starboard to port. Used many as a supportive material for insulation, asbestos was also found in boilers, plumbing and floor tiles.
Sometimes we all need a reminder that there are other veterans, those brave men and women, who served their own country just as we did ours. The problems facing our veterans are often reflected in the struggles facing our brothers and sisters internationally, and we can find reassurance that we are not alone.
Even in the case of Merchant Mariners in the United States and the Merchant Navy in the United Kingdom, these brave men were not a part of the service but served proudly as their countries demanded.
These “civilian soldiers” were instrumental during times of conflict.
Perhaps we can even learn from each other and how different countries handle these seemingly universal problems that seem to haunt all veterans and civilians alike, regardless of race, country or type of service.