Mesothelioma in Engineers

Quick Summary

Military and civilian engineers that worked between the 1930s and 1980s may be at risk of mesothelioma if they were exposed to asbestos. Inhaling nearby asbestos fibers can cause cellular mutations that lead to this cancer. Thankfully, compensation and military benefits may be available for engineers who developed mesothelioma.

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Why Engineers May Be at Risk of Mesothelioma

Engineers are in charge of developing major structures such as office buildings, military bases, ships, aircraft, and vehicles. Unfortunately, many old structures and vehicles built between the 1930s and early 1980s contained asbestos-based products.

Asbestos was once considered an ideal construction product. The material was lightweight, cheap to purchase, and made structures 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:

  • Airplanes
  • Bases
  • Construction sites
  • Houses
  • Mines
  • Ships & shipyards
  • Other buildings or structures

Engineers that worked in these dangerous areas could have inhaled asbestos fibers. Once inside the body, the fibers embedded themselves in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Over time, asbestos fibers may cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous ones, leading to mesothelioma.

Thankfully, help is available for engineers that develop mesothelioma. Medical care from top doctors can help engineers battle this cancer, and financial compensation from manufacturers may be available to pay for treatments.

Further, engineers who were diagnosed with mesothelioma after military asbestos exposure 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.

Mesothelioma Veterans Guide
A Free Veterans Packet can help with
  • Treatment Options
  • Financial Assistance
  • VA Benefits

Get Your Free Veterans Packet

Mesothelioma Veterans GuideGet a FREE Veterans Packet

Get information on:

  • Treatment Options
  • Mesothelioma Specialists
  • Veterans Benefits

Get a Free Veterans Packet

History of Asbestos Exposure in Engineering

Many engineers didn’t work directly with asbestos-based products. However, they were still at risk of exposure if they visited a site where a building or vehicle was being created.

Asbestos could be found on almost every civilian and military construction site in the U.S. before the early 1980s. As engineers weren’t usually working around the sites on a regular basis, they may not have been supplied with face masks or proper equipment to protect them from the dangerous fibers.

Did you know

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 in the early 1980s, millions of people — including thousands of engineers — had been exposed.

Types of Engineers Exposed to Asbestos

Civil Engineers

Civil engineers were responsible for the infrastructure and design of cities and/or roadways. They worked on construction sites, demolition areas, building renovations, and road repairs so they could have been exposed to building materials and asbestos dust from these projects.

Aerospace Engineers

Aerospace 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.

Working with vessel parts, machines, and manufacturing products that contained asbestos put everyone nearby at risk of asbestos exposure. Aerospace engineers carrying out aircraft 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.

At first thought, draftsmen don’t seem to be at a high risk of exposure — they 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.

Military Engineers

U.S. military engineers had a particularly high risk of asbestos exposure. Between the 1930s and 1980s, the U.S. military used asbestos in all its ships and most of its bases and vehicles. Engineers supervising the construction of bases, planes, or ships could have easily been exposed.

Military engineers also ran a risk of exposure as they had to remove the asbestos products from military assets once the dangers became widely known. Removing and destroying old asbestos-containing products may have sent fibers flying into the air.

How Were Engineers Exposed To Asbestos?

Engineers could have been exposed to asbestos while working on 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.

Another high-risk industry for asbestos exposure was roadwork. In dry weather, roadwork would kick up a lot of dust. The dust particles were damaging enough to workers in the short term, causing difficulty breathing. With asbestos particles in the mix, it became even more dangerous.

Demolition sites were also extremely risky. These projects sent asbestos particles flying into the air, and many engineers spent hours per day walking around sites with no protective equipment.

Dozens of products used on these work sites contained asbestos, meaning there was a wide range of products that could put engineers at risk.

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, insulation, flooring, and walls
  • Concrete foundations
  • Heating and ventilation systems (often packed with asbestos)
  • Insulation used in ships and walls

Engineers & Secondhand Asbestos Exposure

Engineers that worked around asbestos may have inadvertently put their families at risk through secondhand exposure.

Asbestos fibers from worksites could cling to the engineers’ clothing, tools, and papers. As a result, the fibers could also contaminate offsite locations such as their homes. Family members such as spouses or children could then inhale or swallow the stray fibers and develop mesothelioma decades later.

Thankfully, there is help available if an engineer or a loved one developed mesothelioma. Get more information with our free veterans packet.

Mesothelioma Veterans Guide
A Free Veterans Packet can help with
  • Treatment Options
  • Financial Assistance
  • VA Benefits

Get Your Free Veterans Packet

Mesothelioma Veterans GuideGet a FREE Veterans Packet

Get information on:

  • Treatment Options
  • Mesothelioma Specialists
  • Veterans Benefits

Get a Free Veterans Packet

Engineers & Modern-Day Asbestos Risks

Though the dangers of asbestos exposure are well-known today, engineers are not totally safe for two reasons.

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

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 today.

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.

  • 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.
  • 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 through a mesothelioma lawsuit.
  • VA benefits are available to engineers that developed mesothelioma from exposure while serving in the military. Mesothelioma VA benefits include monthly payouts and free or low-cost medical care.

Get a free veterans packet today to see all of the available benefits that may be available.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

View Sources

"Civil Engineering Materials." Retrieved from: Accessed on March 23, 2018.

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