Until the early 1980s, the U.S. Air Force used asbestos for its heat resistance and fireproofing properties. Air Force veterans who worked with asbestos materials have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma. Thankfully, benefits are available for veterans who can prove their mesothelioma began with their time in the Air Force.
Air Force Veterans With Mesothelioma
From the 1930s until the early 1980s, asbestos was used by the military for insulation and fireproofing. Unfortunately, during their service, members of the Air Force were exposed to asbestos found in barracks, ground vehicles, and aircraft.
Decades later, this asbestos exposure triggered cellular mutations in some veterans, leading to mesothelioma.
All branches of the military used asbestos, which is why veterans make up the largest group of mesothelioma sufferers — nearly 30% of all cases. Air Force veterans who worked construction were at the highest risk within the Air Force because they used materials that contained asbestos every day.
If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure during your service, it is important to understand that the Air Force didn’t know that asbestos was dangerous.
Although the branch used asbestos in its buildings and aircraft, the risks of asbestos weren’t known by the public until the early 1980s. Tragically, the asbestos industry did know asbestos was deadly and failed to notify the military.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers benefits to veterans who can prove that their mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos during their time in the U.S. Armed Forces. These benefits include financial compensation to help affected veterans and their loved ones.
History of Asbestos Use in the Air Force
Today, over one-third of all mesothelioma victims are veterans. Most Air Force veterans who fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars were exposed to asbestos at some point. The Air Force was at the height of its asbestos use during these wars.
Many Airmen were exposed to asbestos, most often while in aircraft or barracks. Construction workers who built military barracks also suffered from long-term exposure to asbestos in the insulation, piping, drywall, and many other products.
Because asbestos spores are released into the air after the slightest disturbance and can stick to a person’s body for hours afterward, everyone in the Air Force ran the risk of asbestos exposure.
Some jobs that posed the highest risk of asbestos exposure in the Air Force include:
- Aircraft Handler
- Aviation Fire Control Technician
- Electronic Technician
- Jet Engine Mechanic
Asbestos was also used to protect aircraft from fires. The substance was used to line engines, brakes, gaskets, and electrical wiring. Aircraft mechanics who had to install and repair these components were at the highest risk for asbestos exposure because they consistently worked on aircraft.
No level of asbestos exposure is considered safe. Even a few days of exposure have caused mesothelioma to develop in some people.
In the late 1970s, the U.S. military learned about the long-term health risks posed by asbestos exposure. As a result, the military began to remove asbestos from its infrastructure. In the 1980s, the Air Force started to replace asbestos in aircraft with substitute materials.
In 1994, the Air Force had a study commissioned on how to deal with asbestos throughout Air Force barracks and aircraft.
The study, named “The Facilities Asbestos Management” study, was completed in 1994. It established “management principles and practices” for dealing with the hazardous material across the Air Force.