Asbestos on Cutters

The Coast Guard uses cutters to enforce maritime laws, breakup ice in polar areas, patrol, and escort other vessels. The cancer-causing mineral, asbestos, was used to manufacture cutters until 1991–leaving thousands of Coast Guardsmen at risk for potential cancers. Veterans who develop asbestos-related cancers are eligible for federal benefits, including compensation.

US Coast Guard cutter ship sailing in the ocean

Asbestos Exposure on Coast Guard Cutters

Before 1991, the United States Coast Guard (USGC) constructed hundreds of ships (like cutters) with asbestos-containing materials. Usually, contamination stemmed from insulation and flooring. As a result, countless Coast Guardsmen experienced routine asbestos exposure for years during their service.

Inhaling asbestos is known to cause long-term organ damage and cancers in some people. Respiratory cancers, pleural plaques, and mesotheliomas have been diagnosed in former cutter workers. Moreover, higher rates of these cancers occurred among Coast Guard shipyard workers.

Anyone who worked on or berthed in a USGC cutter before ship renovations in the early 1990s may have been exposed to asbestos from interacting with:

  • Cement
  • Duct pipe wrap
  • Electrical wire coating
  • Gaskets and boiler lining
  • Loose floor and ceiling tiles
  • Sealants and adhesives
  • Thermal insulation

Although asbestos exposure levels were low aboard cutters, men and women on these ships experienced routine, daily exposure to the material. Handling asbestos-insulated wires, cleaning damaged asbestos-containing floors, and other normal activities exposed Coast Guardsmen to the carcinogen each day. The risk of developing cancers like mesothelioma increase significantly the longer you’re exposed to asbestos.

Removing asbestos-containing materials from cutters presented another chance for exposure in the Coast Guard. Workers who failed to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) during the renovation of cutters risked higher levels of asbestos exposure.

Additionally, low levels of lead exposure were likewise a health risk on cutters before the 1990s. Lead exposure can also lead to developing long-term illnesses.

History of Military Cutters

In 1790, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton brought together a small fleet of cutter ships eventually known as the Revenue Cutter Service. The fleet patrolled American waters to enforce tax laws and prevent smuggling. With the Revenue Cutter Service, Hamilton simultaneously created the United States Coast Guard.

By 2018, the Coast Guard had 243 cutters. Typically, the ships range from 65 feet in length to over 200 feet (for cutters carrying helicopters).

The boats operate as:

  • Buoy tenders
  • Construction tenders
  • Escort
  • Fast response vessels
  • Harbor tugs
  • National security
  • Patrol
  • Polar and Great Lakes icebreakers
  • Training cutter

List of Asbestos-contaminated Cutters

Cutter Name Hull Classification
ACACIA WLB‐406
ACTIVE WPC‐618/WMEC‐618
ACUSHNET WAT-167/WAGO-167/WMEC-167/ARS-9
ADAK WPB‐1333
ALERT WMEC-630
ALEX HALEY WMEC‐39/ATS‐1
ANACAPA WPB-1335
ANVIL WLIC-75301
AQUIDNECK WPB-1309
ASSATEAGUE WPB-1337
ATTU WPB-1317
AXE WLIC-75310
BARANOF WPB-1318
BASSWOOD WAGL‐388/WLB‐388
BAYBERRY WLI-65400
BEAR WMEC-901
BISCAYNE BAY WTGB-104
BITTERSWEET WAGL‐389/WLB‐389
BLACKBERRY WLI-65303
BLACKHAW WAGL‐390/WLB‐390
BLUEBELL WAGL‐313/WLI‐313
BOLLARD WYTL‐65614
BOUTWELL WHEC‐719
BRAMBLE WAGL‐392/WLB‐392
BRIDLE WYTL‐65607
BRISTOL BAY WTGB‐102
BUCKTHORN WAGL‐642/WLI‐642
BUTTONWOOD WAGL‐306/WLB‐306
CAMPBELL WMEC‐909
CAPE CARTER WPB‐95309
CAPE CORAL WPB‐ 95301
CAPE CROSS WPB‐95321
CAPE CURRENT WPB‐95307
CAPE FAIRWEATHER WPB‐95314
CAPE FOX WPB‐95316
CAPE GEORGE WPB‐95306
CAPE GULL WPB‐95304
CAPE HATTERAS WPB‐95305
CAPE HEDGE WPB‐95311
CAPE HENLOPEN WPB‐95328
CAPE HIGGON WPB‐95302
CAPE HORN WPB‐95322
CAPE JELLISON WPB‐95317
CAPE KNOX WPB‐95312
CAPE MORGAN WPB‐95313
CAPE NEWAGEN WPB‐95318
CAPE PORPOISE WPB‐95326
CAPE ROMAIN WPB‐95319
CAPE SHOALWATER WPB‐95324
CAPE SMALL WPB‐ 95300
CAPE STARR WPB‐95320
CAPE STRAIT WPB‐95308
CAPE UPRIGHT WPB‐95303
CAPE WALSH WPB‐95310
CAPE YORK WPB‐95332
CAPSTAN WYTL‐65601
CATENARY WYTL‐65606
CHANDELEUR WPB‐1319
CHASE WHEC‐718
CHENA WLR‐75409
CHEROKEE WMEC‐165/WAT‐165/ATF‐66
CHEYENNE WLR‐75405
CHILULA WMEC‐153/WAT‐153/ATF‐153
CHINCOTEAGUE WPB‐1320
CHIPPEWA WLR‐75404
CHOCK WYTL‐65602
CHOKEBERRY WLI‐65304
CIMARRON WLR‐65502
CITRUS WAGL‐300/WLB‐300/WMEC‐300
CLAMP WWLIC‐75306
CLEAT WYTL‐65615
CLOVER WAGL‐292/WLB‐292/WMEC‐292
CONFIDENCE WPC‐619/WMEC‐619
CONIFER WAGL‐301/WLB‐301
COURAGEOUS WMEC‐622/WPC‐622
COWSLIP WAGL‐277/WLB‐277
CUSHING WPB‐1321
CUTTYHUNK WPB‐1322
DALLAS WHEC‐716
DAUNTLESS WMEC‐624
DECISIVE WMEC‐629
DEPENDABLE WMEC‐626
DILIGENCE WPC‐616/WMEC‐616
DOGWOOD WAGL‐259/WLR‐259
DRUMMOND WPB‐1323
DURABLE WMEC‐628/WPC‐628
EAGLE WIX‐327
EDISTO WPB‐1313
ELDERBERRY WLI‐65401
ESCANABA WMEC‐907
ESCAPE WMEC‐6/ARS‐6
EVERGREEN WAGL‐295/WAGO‐295/WLB‐295/WMEC‐295
FARALLON WPB‐1301
FIR WAGL‐212/WLM‐212
FIREBUSH WAGL‐393/WLB‐393
FORWARD WMEC‐911
GALLATIN WHEC‐721
GASCONADE WLR‐75401
GENTIAN WAGL‐290/WLB‐290/WIX‐290
GLACIER AGB‐4/WAGB‐4
GREENBRIER WLR‐75501
HAMILTON WHEC‐715
HAMMER WLIC‐75302
HARRIET LANE WMEC‐903
HATCHET WLIC‐75309
HAWSER WYTL‐65610
HORNBEAM WAGL‐394/WLB‐394
HUDSON WLIC‐801
INGHAM WPG‐35/WHEC‐35
IRIS WAGL‐395/WLB‐395
IRONWOOD WAGL‐297/WLB‐297
JARVIS WHEC‐725
KANAWHA WLR‐75407
KANKAKEE WLR‐75500
KATMAI BAY WTGB‐101
KAW WYTM 61/WYT‐61
KENNEBEC WLIC‐802
KEY LARGO (aka LARGO) WPB‐1324
KICKAPOO WLR‐75406
KISKA WPB‐1336
LANTANA WAGL‐310/WLR‐80310
LAUREL WAGL‐291/WLB‐291
LEGARE WMEC‐912
LIBERTY WPB‐1334
LINE WYTL‐65611
LIPAN WMEC‐85/ATF‐85/AT‐85
MACKINAW WAGB‐83
MADRONA WAGL‐302/WLB‐302
MALLET WLIC‐75304
MALLOW WAGL‐396/WLB‐396
MANITOU WPB‐1302
MARIPOSA WAGL‐397/WLB‐397
MATAGORDA WPB‐1303
MATINICUS WPB‐1315
MAUI WPB‐1304
MELLON WHEC‐717
MESQUITE WAGL‐305/WLB‐305
MESSENGER CG‐85009/ST‐710
METOMPKIN WPB‐1325
MIDGETT WHEC‐726
MOBILE BAY WTGB‐103
MOHAWK WMEC‐913
MONHEGAN WPB‐1305
MONOMOY WPB‐1326
MORGENTHAU WHEC‐722
MORRO BAY WTGB‐106
MUNRO WHEC‐724
MUSKINGUM WLR‐75402
MUSTANG WPB‐1310
NANTUCKET WPB‐1316
NAUSHON WPB‐1311
NEAH BAY WTGB‐105
NORTHLAND WMEC‐904
NORTHWIND AG‐282/WAGB‐282
NUNIVAK WPB‐1306
OBION WLR‐65503
OCRACOKE WBP‐1307
ORCAS WPB‐1327
OSAGE WLR‐65505
OUACHITA WLR‐65501
PADRE WPB‐1328
PAMLICO WLIC‐800
PAPAW WAGL‐308/WLB‐308
PATOKA WLR‐75408
PENDANT WYTL‐65608
PENOBSCOT BAY WTGB‐107
PETREL WSES‐4
PLANETREE WAGL‐307/WLB‐307
POINT ARENA WPB‐82346
POINT BAKER WPB‐82342
POINT BARNES WPB‐82371
POINT BARROW WPB‐82348
POINT BATAN WPB‐82340
POINT BENNETT WPB‐82351
POINT BONITA WPB‐82347
POINT BRIDGE WPB‐82338
POINT BROWER WPB‐82372
POINT BROWN WPB‐82362
POINT CAMDEN WPB‐82373
POINT CARREW WPB‐82374
POINT CHARLES WPB‐82361
POINT CHICO WPB‐82339
POINT COUNTLESS WPB‐82335
POINT DIVIDE WPB‐82337
POINT DORAN WPB‐82375
POINT ESTERO WPB‐82344
POINT EVANS WPB‐82354
POINT FRANCIS WPB‐82356
POINT FRANKLIN WPB‐82350
POINT GLASS WPB‐82336
POINT HANNON WPB‐82355
POINT HARRIS WPB‐82376
POINT HERRON WPB‐82318
POINT HEYER WPB‐82369
POINT HIGHLAND WPB‐82333
POINT HOBART WPB‐82377
POINT HOPE WPB‐82302
POINT HURON WPB‐82357
POINT JACKSON WPB‐82378
POINT JUDITH WPB‐82345
POINT KNOLL WPB‐82367
POINT LEDGE WPB‐82334
POINT LOBOS WPB‐82366
POINT LOOKOUT WPB‐82341
POINT MARTIN WPB‐82379
POINT MONREO WPB‐82353
POINT NOWELL WPB‐82363
POINT RICHMOND WPB‐82370
POINT SAL WPB‐82352
POINT SPENCER WPB‐82349
POINT STEELE WPB‐82359
POINT STUART WPB‐82358
POINT SWIFT WPB‐82312
POINT THATCHER WPB‐82314
POINT TURNER WPB‐82365
POINT VERDE WPB‐82311
POINT WARDE WPB‐82368
POINT WELLS WPB‐82343
POINT WHITE HORN WPB‐82364
POINT WINSLOW WPB‐82360
POLAR SEA WAGB‐11
POLAR STAR WAGB‐10
PRIMROSE WAGL‐316/WLI‐316/WLIC‐316
RAMBLER WAGL‐298/WLI‐298/WLIC‐298
RARITAN WYTM‐93/WYT‐93
RED BEECH WLM‐686
RED BIRCH WLM‐687
RED CEDAR WLM‐688
RED OAK WLM‐689
RED WOOD WLM‐685
RELIANCE WPC‐615/WMEC‐615/WTR‐615/WMEC‐615
RESOLUTE WPC‐620/WMEC‐620
RUSH WHEC‐723
SAGEBRUSH WAGL‐399/WLB‐399
SAGINAW WLIC‐803
SALVIA WAGL‐400/WBL‐400
SANGAMON WLR‐65506
SANIBEL WPB‐1312
SAPELO WPB‐1314
SASSAFRAS WAGL‐401/WLB‐401
SCIOTO WLR‐65504
SEA HAWK WSES‐2
SEDGE WAGL‐402/WLB‐402
SENECA WMEC‐906
SHACKLE WYTL‐65609
SHEARWATER WSES‐3
SHERMAN WHEC‐720
SITKINAK WPB‐1329
SLEDGE WLIC‐75303
SMILAX WAGL‐315/WLI‐315/WLIC‐315
SORREL WAGL‐296/WLB‐296
SPAR WAGL‐403/WLB‐403
SPENCER WMEC‐905
STEADFAST WMEC‐623
STORIS WAGL‐38/WAG‐38/WAGB‐38/WMEC‐38
STURGEON BAY WTGB‐109
SUMAC WAGL‐311/WLR‐311
SUNDEW WAGL‐404/WLB‐404
SWEETBRIER WAGL‐405/WLB‐405
SWEETGUM WAGL‐309/WLB‐309
SWIVEL WYTL‐65603
TACKLE WYTL‐65604
TAHOMA WMEC‐908
TAMAROA WMEC‐166/WAT‐166/ATF‐95
TAMPA WMEC‐902
THETIS WMEC‐910
THUNDER BAY WTGB‐108
TOWLINE WYTL‐65605
TYBEE WPB‐1330
UNIMAK WHEC‐379/WTR‐379/WAVP‐379
UTE WMEC‐76/ATF‐76/AT‐76
VALIANT WMEC‐621
VASHON WPB‐1308
VENTUROUS WMEC‐625
VIGILANT WPC‐617/WMEC‐617
VIGOROUS WMEC‐627
VINDICATOR WMEC‐3/T‐AGOS‐3
VISE WLIC‐75305
WASHINGTON WPB‐1331
WEDGE WLIC‐75307/WLR‐75307
WESTWIND WAG‐281/WAGB‐281
WHITE HEALTH WAGL‐545/WLM‐545
WHITE HOLLY WAGL‐543/WLM‐543
WHITE LUPINE WAGL‐564/WLM‐546
WHITE PINE WAGL‐547/WLM‐547
WHITE SAGE WAGL‐544/WLM‐544
WHITE SUMAC WAGL‐540/WLM‐540
WIRE WYTL‐65612
WOODRUSH WAGL‐407/WLB‐407
WRANGELL WPB‐1332
WYACONDA WLR‐75403
YOCONA WAT‐168/WMEC‐168/ARS‐26

Health Risks Linked to Asbestos Exposure

In most cases, it takes years or decades for asbestos particles in the body to cause evident symptoms. Up to 20 to 50 years after serving aboard a cutter, service members may notice a hacking cough that won’t go away, chest pain, or swelling in the upper torso.

Complications of asbestos exposure (like lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma) can produce similar symptoms. As such, diagnosing the underlying problem can be difficult for doctors (especially for those unfamiliar with asbestos-caused diseases).

Health problems linked to asbestos exposure include:

  • Colon cancer
  • Larynx cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pericardial mesothelioma
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma
  • Pleural mesothelioma
  • Stomach cancer
  • Testicular cancer

Benefits for Veterans

Fortunately for veterans and their families, all health issues linked to military service are covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA provides compensation and health care to eligible Coast Guardsmen, veterans, and their families.

If you have an asbestos-related illness and were assigned to a USGC cutter before 1991, you may provide one of the following documentation to the VA:

  • Permanent duty assignment orders on a USGC cutter
  • Career Summary list of all permanent duty assignments
  • Coast Guard Service Treatment Records stating you had a permanent duty assignment on a specific Coast Guard cutter
  • Military Service Records from the National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri
  • Military Service Records from the Coast Guard Military Records Section/ Personnel Service Center (if you separated on or after 10/01/2006)