It is common for US Army veterans to have been exposed to asbestos in their service, and develop mesothelioma later in life. Some in the Army today may still be exposed to asbestos, including those who have served in Iraq and other nations that still use high quantities of asbestos in construction.
Even as late as the 1990s, it was found that asbestos was among the contaminants at least 30 installations in the Army before they were shut down or renovated. Sadly, this is typical of the Army and other military branches that used a lot of asbestos in much of the 20th century.
Although asbestos was no longer used in construction in the Army in the late 1970s, the dangerous and toxic fibers are still present at Army bases decades after their construction. This fact threatens soldiers today. Because the symptoms of a disease related to asbestos does not show itself for up to 50 years after exposure, many Army veterans are still worried about the possibility of developing mesothelioma later in life.
It is recommended that Army veterans take careful note of any symptoms that suggest they may have developed a condition related to asbestos exposure. (Army.mil).
How Army Members Were Exposed to Asbestos
Asbestos was known to be dangerous even before World War II, but it was still used in all military branches because it was highly affordable and heat resistant. It is an excellent fire retardant for many construction materials and military uses, but it is highly dangerous at the same time. Fibers from asbestos are tiny and cannot be seen with the naked eye in most cases. Still, they can be breathed in or ingested, and lead to deadly cancers much later in life.
Asbestos was used in the Army in buildings where soldiers worked, ate and slept. It also was used in insulation, caulking, flooring, roofing and in plumbing systems. Army vehicles also contained varying degrees of asbestos in the clutch plates, gaskets and brake pads.
The use of asbestos was most common in the Navy, but the Army also used asbestos in its vehicles and bases. In 1998, the US Army began to use the Installation Asbestos Management Program to shield members from the dangers of asbestos exposure.
This program mandates that all US Army facilities and activities must fully comply with state, local and federal laws on asbestos. It further instructs military personnel to reduce the release of dangerous asbestos fibers as much as possible. Military members also are instructed to use alternatives to asbestos as much as possible. There are many other requirements to manage asbestos safely, ,such as taking a complete inventory of all asbestos containing materials and risks. There must also be a detailed asbestos management plan for all Army facilities.
Army Occupations Involving High Risk of Asbestos Exposure
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the following occupations that were performed by US military members may have given them greater exposure to asbestos:
- Shipyard work
- Insulation work
- Tearing down or renovating older buildings
- Construction and carpentry
- Servicing and manufacture of various friction products, such as brake linings and clutch facings
- Installation and manufacture of roofing and flooring products, cement sheets containing asbestos, military equipment and pipe products.
Where Army Members Were Exposed to Asbestos
Soldiers could be exposed to asbestos in many locations for decades:
- Barracks: Army members who lived in barracks could easily have been in contact with asbestos. The material was used a great deal until the 1970s in Army construction when the barracks were constructed. Asbestos in Army barracks could be found in insulation, electrical wiring, ceiling tiles and siding. Most asbestos in the Army has since been replaced, it was not always practical to get rid of all of the product. Asbestos may remain in some older barracks.
- Army vehicles: These vehicles that were constructed before the 1970s usually contained asbestos. Almost all Army vehicles at that time had some form of asbestos in it. Affected vehicles included tanks, buses, trucks and ambulances. Asbestos was used heavily in gaskets, clutches, brake pads and heating systems. This created an infrastructure that was highly heat resistant, but also exposed workers to dangerous asbestos fibers.
- Construction: Army soldiers who worked in many construction projects were exposed to more asbestos on the job. Military veterans who worked in building, remodeling and fixing barracks were at higher risk for exposure to asbestos. The disturbance of any materials that contain asbestos also creates a higher risk for inhaling the hazardous fibers. The Army made the decision to take out of service most asbestos-containing products in the late 1970s, with the Army Corps of Engineers handling the work.
- Aircraft: Although the Air Force is best known for its aircraft, the US Army Air Forces led all air-based military work prior to 1947. The USAAF was only formed when the US declared war on Japan in World War II. Pilots, crew members in the US Army Air Forces and then the Air Force all were exposed to asbestos on aircraft in gaskets, firewalls, and heating systems. Because of the greater need for aircraft in the war, the use of asbestos spiked during war time with the construction of airplanes.
Recent Exposure to Asbestos
Soldiers who served in Iraq recently also may have been exposed to asbestos. Iraq and other countries in the Middle East still import high quantities of asbestos for construction even today. There are concerns that buildings overseas contain asbestos, and they could when demolished release asbestos fibers for miles because of winds that are much higher in desert regions of the area.
If you are an Army veteran who has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related condition, it is recommended to speak to a mesothelioma attorney who is experienced in dealing with lawsuits involving the US military. You also could be eligible to file a third party lawsuit against companies that provided asbestos-containing materials to the Army. Further, you could receive compensation from an asbestos trust fund that many companies have set up to pay workers who were exposed to asbestos in the products the companies created. You also may be eligible for military benefits from the VA if you had contact with asbestos in the military and you received an honorable discharge. (VA.gov).
You can get these benefits from the VA, with the help of your attorney, by presenting medical records that show your illness, service records that indicate the job where you were exposed, and a doctor’s statement there is a link between asbestos exposure and your current medical condition. Talk to your attorney for more information.
Get Mesothelioma Legal Help
With over $30 billion available for victims through the Asbestos Trust Funds, you could be entitled to financial compensations without ever filing a lawsuit? Mesothelioma & Lung Cancer victims qualify immediately. Complete the form or call us toll free (800) 352-0871
- Asbestos Exposure and VA Benefits. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/asbestos/
- Army Asbestos and Lead Programs. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/workplacehealth/ih/Pages/Army-Asbestos-and-Lead-Programs.aspx