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Asbestos was used throughout the military for decades and many veterans have been exposed and are at risk for developing mesothelioma and other illnesses. Too many veterans already have been diagnosed with these illnesses, suffered because of them, and died from them. Asbestos has been 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 our men and women in all branches of the military. Most of these military members were not aware of the exposure, either, or its risks. Manufacturers of many of the asbestos-containing products used in the military and in wars kept information from those who needed it and failed to warn those vulnerable of the danger they were in.

Asbestos in the Navy

Asbestos was particularly 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 even used in the paint and was literally used everywhere on Navy ships to insulate and to protect the crew from fires.

The type of asbestos insulation used in these ships was generally sprayed on, which puts people at particular risk for inhaling fibers. Those Navy men and women who worked in below-deck areas 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 the 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 and these were full of asbestos. At home, later cleanup efforts have 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 members spend less time on ships than members of other branches of the military, 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.

The mechanics working in the Air Force were at the greatest risk of inhaling asbestos fibers because their work naturally disturbed the material. Pilots were also at risk of exposure simply from working in the aircraft that contained so much asbestos.

Military Members Most at Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Anyone in the military during the time period that asbestos was used so heavily 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.

Wartime Exposure

During times of peace 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 during active duty during several wars. For instance, the more recent active service seen in Iraq and Afghanistan put military members at risk through the destruction of buildings in those countries. Older buildings made with asbestos, when bombed or otherwise destroyed, released asbestos into the air that veterans inhaled.

World War II was also a time at which asbestos exposure was high. This is because it happened during a time period when asbestos use was extensive. There were few people voicing concerns about its risks at that time, and many who believed it was useful for being inexpensive and 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 products that the military needed, especially during war. It was only later that investigations determined that 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.

Military Benefits

Veterans that 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. There are certain requirements that 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 and 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.

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