Military and civilian engineers that worked between the 1930s and early 1980s may be at risk of mesothelioma if they were exposed to asbestos. Engineers often worked on or around asbestos-containing structures. Thankfully, compensation and military benefits may be available for engineers who develop mesothelioma.
Why Engineers May Be at Risk of Mesothelioma
Engineers are in charge of developing major structures such as office buildings, military bases, ships, and vehicles. Unfortunately, many structures and vehicles built between the 1930s and early 1980s contained asbestos.
Asbestos was once considered an ideal construction product. The material was lightweight, cheap to purchase, and fire-resistant. However, the makers of asbestos-based products hid a deadly secret: Asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma or other illnesses later in life.
Engineers may have been exposed to asbestos from:
- Bases & buildings
- Construction sites
- Ships & shipyards
- Other buildings or structures
Thankfully, engineers that developed mesothelioma can access medical care after a diagnosis and pursue financial payouts from the makers of asbestos-based products.
U.S. veterans with mesothelioma who were exposed to asbestos while serving as military engineers may also qualify for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Get a Free Veterans Packet to see what benefits you might qualify for.
History of Asbestos Exposure in Engineering
Many engineers didn’t work directly with asbestos-based products but they were still at risk of exposure if they visited work sites. Construction work sent asbestos fibers flying into the air nearby, which engineers may have inhaled.
Once inside the body, asbestos fibers can lodge themselves in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Asbestos fibers may cause healthy cells to mutate into cancer ones 10-50 years after exposure, leading to mesothelioma.
Manufacturers of asbestos-based products knew the dangers of their goods since the 1930s. Instead of letting the public know, they concealed the facts for decades to keep their profit margins high.
By the time lawsuits revealed the truth about asbestos, millions of people — including thousands of engineers — had been exposed.
How Were Engineers Exposed To Asbestos?
Asbestos could be found on nearly all civilian and military construction sites in the U.S. before the early 1980s. Engineers may not have been supplied with face masks or other protective equipment as the dangers of asbestos weren't well-known for decades.
Engineers could have been exposed to asbestos through:
- Construction sites: As construction workers installed asbestos products, tiny fibers may have entered the air. Anyone on the worksite — including engineers — was then put at risk of exposure.
- Demolition sites: These projects sent asbestos particles flying, and many engineers spent hours per day walking around sites with no protective equipment.
- Roadwork sites: In dry weather, roadwork would kick up a lot of dust that contained asbestos. The dust particles could cause difficulty breathing in the short term and mesothelioma decades later.
Dozens of products used on these worksites contained asbestos, and all of them could have put engineers in danger.
Engineers may have been exposed to any of these asbestos products:
- Aircraft and vehicle parts like brake pads, gaskets, and clutches
- Building materials such as roofing, floor tiles, and walls
- Concrete foundations
- Heating and ventilation systems (often packed with asbestos)
- Insulation used in ships and walls
Types of Engineers Exposed to Asbestos
Civil engineers were responsible for the infrastructure and design of cities and/or roadways. They worked on construction sites, demolition areas, building renovation sites, and road repairs.
They could have been exposed to asbestos dust from any of these projects, so there's a big risk of mesothelioma in civil engineers today.
In 2019, a former civil engineer with mesothelioma received $8 million following his diagnosis. He'd been exposed to asbestos decades earlier while supervising a construction job that used asbestos-based spray.
Aerospace & Aeronautical Engineers
Aerospace and aeronautical engineers are in charge of creating planes, helicopters, and other aircraft. Until the early 1980s, almost every type of aircraft used asbestos to some degree.
As a result, the risk of mesothelioma in aeronautical engineers and aerospace engineers is high.
Working with vessel parts, machines, and manufacturing products that contained asbestos put engineers nearby at risk of exposure. Aerospace engineers carrying out maintenance faced the highest risk of exposure when disassembling or repairing asbestos-based parts.
Draftsmen are responsible for developing building plans. They convert ideas from architects or designers into usable blueprints. Draftsmen didn’t handle asbestos-containing materials directly. However, they were frequently at risk of exposure when visiting job sites.
Draftsmen often worked on high-risk worksites for long periods and were surrounded by airborne asbestos fibers. They may have inhaled asbestos many times over the course of a single project.
U.S. military engineers had a particularly high risk of asbestos exposure. Between the 1930s and early 1980s, the U.S. military used asbestos on many of its assets.
- Air Force bases and planes
- Almost all U.S. Navy ships
- Most U.S. Army bases
- Other structures
Thankfully, there is help available if an engineer developed mesothelioma. Veterans may qualify to get mesothelioma VA benefits that pay out over 3,000 per month in many cases. Get more information with our Free Veterans Packet.
Engineers & Secondhand Asbestos Exposure
Engineers that worked around asbestos may have inadvertently put their families at risk of mesothelioma through secondhand exposure.
Asbestos fibers from worksites could cling to the engineers’ clothing, tools, and skin. As a result, the fibers could also contaminate offsite locations such as their homes. Family members such as spouses or children could inhale or swallow the stray fibers and develop mesothelioma decades later.
Engineers & Modern-Day Asbestos Risks
Though the dangers of asbestos exposure are well-known today, engineers are not totally safe for two reasons.
1. No Asbestos Ban
While the use of asbestos is greatly restricted, there is still not a full ban on it in the United States. This means that some construction materials and worksites still put engineers at risk of exposure today.
“[...] It is legal, and entirely possible, for asbestos to be in use in facilities constructed after 1991. It is also possible asbestos is present even in new construction; either manufactured in the U.S. or imported from elsewhere. In addition, many of the newer materials are not as well-known by today’s workforce.”
– Naval Facilities Engineering Command
2. Old Structures Still Contain Asbestos
Many older buildings, ships, aircraft, and vehicles made when asbestos was thought to be safe are still standing today.
For example, a handful of U.S. Navy ships with asbestos-based products onboard are still in service. If the asbestos in these structures is disturbed, it could put people at risk.
Help for Engineers With Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a life-threatening disease that no one should have to endure. Thankfully, engineers with mesothelioma can pursue medical treatments, financial compensation, and VA benefits.
- Financial compensation for mesothelioma may be available from the makers of asbestos-based products. Remember, these companies knew the risks but sold their goods anyway. Compensation can be retrieved by filing an asbestos trust fund claim or a private claim.
- Medical treatments are key to helping mesothelioma patients live longer and without pain. Engineers can access mesothelioma treatments from civilian doctors or through the VA if they’re U.S. veterans.
- VA benefits are available to engineers that developed mesothelioma from exposure while serving in the military. These benefits include monthly payouts and free or low-cost medical care. File for mesothelioma VA benefits now.
You can also get a Free Veterans Packet today to see all of the available benefits that may be available.
FAQs About Mesothelioma in Engineers
How were engineers exposed to asbestos?
Engineers may have been exposed to asbestos in many ways. They oversaw major projects, including the building, renovation, and/or demolition of structures that were often built with asbestos.
All of these activities could have released asbestos fibers into the air that engineers breathed in.
Why was asbestos used in civil engineering?
Asbestos was used in civil engineering — and other branches of engineering — because it helped make structures much more durable and fireproof.
Further, the general public didn't know that asbestos could lead to deadly health problems. The manufacturers of asbestos-containing materials hid the risks.
Today, asbestos is rarely used in engineering projects in the U.S. due to the life-threatening dangers it poses.
Are engineers at risk of other asbestos-related diseases?
Yes. Asbestos exposure can cause many other health problems besides mesothelioma, and there's no way to know for sure which illness (if any) one will develop after exposure.
As a result, engineers could be at risk of lung cancer, asbestosis, or other asbestos-related diseases decades after being exposed.
If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos while serving as an engineer and is now feeling unwell, see a doctor immediately. Make sure to note when your symptoms appeared and that you were exposed to asbestos earlier in life.
Doctors can help determine if you may have an asbestos-related disease and help you get treatments.