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Asbestos was used throughout the military for decades, during which many veterans were exposed and put at risk for developing mesothelioma and other illnesses. Too many veterans have already been diagnosed with these illnesses, suffered because of them, and died from them. Asbestos was used in the military because it provided insulation and protection from fire and heat.
The unintended consequence, however, was that this protection ended up hurting men and women in all branches of the military. Most military personnel were not aware of the exposure, or its risks. Manufacturers of many of the asbestos-containing products used by the military kept information from those who needed it, failing to warn people of the danger they were in.
Asbestos in the Navy
Asbestos was heavily used in the U.S. Navy because it has so many useful applications on ships. It was used to insulate boilers and pipes, in pumps and around valves and gaskets, in flooring and paneling, in adhesives, in decking, in thermal materials, and even in firefighting gear. Asbestos was used in the paint and all over Navy ships to insulate and to protect the crew from fires.
Asbestos insulation used in these ships was generally sprayed on, which put people at particular risk of inhaling fibers. Sailors and officers who worked below decks were especially vulnerable to asbestos exposure, including those in the boiler room, the engine room, and storage rooms.
Asbestos in the Marine Corps
Members of the U.S. Marine Corps have been exposed to asbestos mostly through aircraft, ships, and armored vehicles. Exposure at bases may also have been an issue. In World War II, Marines were transported via U.S. Navy ships full of asbestos. Later cleanup efforts found that Marine Corps bases may have exposed countless veterans to asbestos through its use in insulation, bedding, flooring, ceiling tiles, and roofing materials.
Asbestos in the Coast Guard
In the Coast Guard, as in the Marines and Navy, members were often exposed to asbestos on ships and boats. Just as in Navy ships, Coast Guard vessels had asbestos in the boiler room, engine room, in the insulation, in gaskets and valves, and even woven into ropes to increase strength. In some cases, all interior walls were coated in asbestos to protect people from fire.
Asbestos in the Army
While Army soldiers spend less time on ships than members of other military branches, they have still been exposed to asbestos and suffered the consequences. In the Army exposure mainly came from buildings and vehicles. Cement, flooring, roofing, bedding, insulation in buildings and gaskets, valves, clutch plates, and brakes in vehicles were full of asbestos.
Asbestos in the Air Force
In the U.S. Air Force, workers were vulnerable to asbestos exposure from a number of sources. Air Force bases used asbestos in floor tiles and adhesives, ceiling tiles, drywall materials, insulation, and stucco. On aircraft asbestos was used in electrical insulation, in gaskets and valves, as insulation in cargo bays, in heat shields on engines, and in the brakes.
Air Force mechanics working in the aircraft that contained asbestos were put at risk.
Military Members Most at Risk of Asbestos Exposure
Anyone in the military during the time asbestos was used was put at risk for asbestos exposure. Certain jobs, though, put workers at even greater risk of being around and inhaling asbestos fibers. These include shipyard workers, miners, millers, construction workers, carpenters, mechanics, and ship repairers. Also at greater risk are any veterans that worked in the below-decks regions of Navy ships.
In peactime, veterans were possibly exposed to asbestos simply by being on ships or in bases and doing their everyday jobs. Even more veterans were put at risk for asbestos exposure by serving on active duty during several wars. Deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan could have exposed personnel to asbestos, when sites containing it were bombed or otherwise destroyed, releasing asbestos into the air that veterans inhaled.
During World War II asbestos exposure was high because asbestos use was extensive. Few people voiced concerns about its risk, and many believed it was useful for protecting military members from fire and heat.
Asbestos Manufacturers and the Military
Veterans in all branches of the military were exposed to asbestos through products made by U.S. manufacturers. Companies like Johns Manville made a lot of money mining asbestos and using it in military products, especially during war. Later investigations determined this company and others knew of the risks of being around asbestos, but failed to warn the military about those risks. As early as 1934, Johns Manville knew about the dangers of asbestos because of private medical testing.
Veterans who were exposed to asbestos through their service and are now suffering from mesothelioma or another related illness may seek compensation through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some requirements must be met, such as never having been dishonorably discharged and proving that asbestos exposure occurred during service in the military. Compensation may take the form of disability compensation, health care, dependency and indemnity compensation, or special monthly compensation.
These companies, the U.S. Military and government all failed veterans who have died from asbestos-related diseases or are suffering from them now. These men and women served the country and were repaid with lies and cover ups. Lawsuits over asbestos exposure have soared as civilians and veterans alike seek justice and compensation.
Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster
Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.