Veterans have given their lives to protecting the freedoms we cherish in the United States. Not only have some veterans suffered the physical and emotional consequences of going to war, but they also have unknowingly been exposed to asbestos, a known carcinogen that causes mesothelioma. The United States military used asbestos routinely from approximately 1930 to 1980 for the mineral’s ability to be nearly indestructible and resistant to fire and corrosion. The Navy used more asbestos than any other branch of the military, mainly in ship yards and inside seafaring vessels, so the number of Navy veterans at risk of developing mesothelioma is much greater than other members of the military.
The United States military claims it was unaware of just how toxic asbestos was until the late 70’s and has since taken measures to eliminate asbestos and ensure service personnel have protective gear to shield them from exposure. Many veterans who served in the military up until 1980’s and beyond were exposed to asbestos on a daily basis, and many of these veterans were subsequently diagnosed with mesothelioma. Because it takes many years, if not decades, to develop mesothelioma after the initial asbestos exposure, many veterans are still at risk for developing mesothelioma in the future. As such, the government has established a system to provide veterans with the compensation and medical resources they need to treat mesothelioma and help veterans live as long and as comfortably as possible.
The Military and Mesothelioma
Although veterans comprise only 8% of the U.S. population, they constitute more than 30% of all mesothelioma-related deaths each year. What accounts for this link between the military and mesothelioma? The reasons may seem complex at first considering the medical and political history, the epidemiology of the disease, known and unknown risk factors, and types of military work, however the answer is simple: Asbestos exposure was much greater in military service since it was widely used as a “strategic material” – efficient with a low cost.
Key Facts Concerning the Military and Asbestos
- 95% of all mesothelioma cases are due to asbestos exposure.
- While the utilization of asbestos in the U.S. has declined, many countries where service members are deployed still rely on asbestos as a major material
- A large aircraft carrier could house up to 6,000 Navy personnel and carry 700 tons of asbestos between decks
- In 1985, 51 companies operating 66 plants nationwide produced approximately 9.6 million gallons of asbestos containing non-roofing adhesives, sealants and coatings
How Military Veterans Were Exposed to Asbestos
From the 1930’s through the 1970’s, all branches of the military had requirements to use asbestos, with the U.S. Navy being the most prolific user of the carcinogenic substance. Asbestos exposures could include:
- Specific Military Manufacturing and Use of Over 300 Asbestos Products
- adhesives & cements – generally containing 1%-5% asbestos
- liquid sealants – generally containing 1%-5% asbestos
- semi-liquid glazing, caulking, and patching compounds – generally containing 5%-25% asbestos
- asphalt based coatings – generally containing 5%-10% asbestos
- firewall sealants – generally containing 5%-20% asbestos
- epoxy adhesives – generally containing 5%-20% asbestos
- Military Servicing & Maintenance of Friction Based Asbestos Products
- Navy War Ships, Submarines & Maritime Vessels
- Military Shipyard work
- Military Land Vehicles & Ambulances
- Military Aircraft
- Military Rocket Propelled Machines & Weapons
- Military Buildings – Carpentry / Construction, Barracks / Sleeping Quarters, Mess Halls
- Insulation Work
- Demolition of Buildings
What to do if you suspect you were exposed to asbestos in the military service
Mesothelioma resulting from asbestos exposure among military personnel and veterans is so pervasive a problem that even the Veterans Administration (VA) has publicly acknowledged and created specialized infrastructure to address afflicted veterans. If you or someone you know is in the military and has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is important that you contact our attorneys to help navigate this often complex body of law and recover maximum compensation.