United States Marines who served between the 1930s and early 1980s may have been exposed to asbestos. Asbestos is the only known cause of the deadly cancer mesothelioma and was widely used in Marine Corps ships, vehicles, and bases. Thankfully, Marines who develop mesothelioma as a result of their military service can access treatments and compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
U.S. Marine Corps Veterans With Mesothelioma
The U.S. Marine Corps is a small, elite branch of the military that is trained to fight battles in the sea, on the ground, and in the sky. Starting in the early 1930s, the Marine Corps (and all other U.S. military branches) relied on asbestos-based products for decades to help achieve victory.
Asbestos is a highly durable mineral made up of tiny fibers that resists heat, corrosion, and sound. Initially, the U.S. government thought that asbestos-based products, like construction materials, were safe since manufacturers hid the facts.
Asbestos could be found in Marine Corps:
- Barracks and other buildings
- Cars and trucks
However, asbestos is now known to cause a life-threatening cancer called mesothelioma and other deadly illnesses. Marine Corps veterans whose Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) were in construction often have the highest risk of developing mesothelioma, but any veteran exposed to asbestos is at risk.
The VA offers financial and medical benefits to veterans with mesothelioma. Private compensation may also be available for Marines with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.
History of Asbestos Use in the Marines
Since asbestos use was so widespread between the 1930s and early 1980s, Marines may have been exposed in several ways. See how the Marine Corps relied on asbestos below.
Dozens of Marine Corps bases and barracks used asbestos. The barracks were often lined with asbestos insulation to fireproof them. This was typical of the military before the dangers of asbestos were known. Asbestos-containing materials like pipes and gaskets also were used to build Marine bases, barracks, and other buildings.
Notable Marine Corps bases that used asbestos included Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Camp Pendleton in California, and Naval Station Newport in Rhode Island.
Asbestos products could be found in the following locations:
- Ceiling tiles
- Floor tiles
- Heating systems
- Roofing materials
As the materials wore down over time or were removed during maintenance, it was easier for asbestos exposure to occur.
Marines with the highest risk of asbestos exposure were the ones that built or repaired barracks. These Marines had to handle materials made from asbestos, and as these products were disturbed, asbestos fibers were released into the air.
Marine veterans who served aboard U.S. Navy vessels also have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses than those who didn’t, as virtually every ship was built with asbestos between the 1930s and early 1980s.
Marines working on Navy ships could have been exposed to asbestos at every turn.
Asbestos exposure was a risk whenever someone worked on:
- Ceiling tiles
- Deck flooring
When asbestos on Navy ships was disturbed, it could remain airborne for hours and anyone aboard could easily inhale it. The risk was particularly high in boiler rooms and engine rooms, which had extremely poor ventilation.
Asbestos could also be carried to other areas of the ship on someone’s skin, hair, or clothing after initial exposure.
Throughout most of the 20th century, Marines working in shipyards were also at high risk for asbestos exposure.
Before the 1980s, ship parts like incinerators and boilers were lined with asbestos insulation to protect them from fires and excessive heat. As Marines installed, repaired, or replaced these components, asbestos fibers were released and possibly inhaled.
Actor and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Steve McQueen believed he developed mesothelioma from removing asbestos insulation in a Navy shipyard.
The military’s largest shipyards were in California, New York, Washington, Virginia, and Oregon. Asbestos-containing products were still being used in Navy ships until the early 1980s.
Call (877) 450-8973 to get help if you or a loved one developed mesothelioma after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Tanks and other motor transport vehicles used by the Marines contained asbestos. In the 1960s, the Marines used the M60 Patton tank, which contained asbestos insulation for fireproofing. Gunners operating the tank also wore gloves lined with asbestos to protect them from burns.
Transport vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, and amphibious assault vehicles all had similar asbestos risks. As the insulation in these vehicles wore down, the asbestos exposure risk increased.
Marines working as mechanics on aircraft or transport vehicles also had a high risk of asbestos exposure. These Marines often came in contact with seals, gaskets, brake pads, and clutches made with asbestos.
Secondary Asbestos Exposure and the Marine Corps
Marine Corps veterans are not the only ones who may be at risk of developing mesothelioma today. If their family members lived on a Marine Corps base where asbestos materials were used, they may have been exposed indirectly.
If asbestos fibers were disturbed as a Marine worked, they could get stuck on uniforms, hair, or skin. Family members who hugged their loved ones or handled these uniforms could have unknowingly been exposed to asbestos fibers.
Marines and Modern-Day Asbestos Risks
According to the VA, while it is very rare, some active-duty Marines may be exposed to asbestos while overseas in Iraq or nearby countries. Older buildings in this region that used asbestos in their construction can become damaged and release asbestos into the air.
Get a Free Veterans Packet to learn more about the risks of asbestos exposure.
- Treatment Options
- Financial Assistance
- VA Benefits
Get information on:
- Treatment Options
- Mesothelioma Specialists
- Veterans Benefits
VA Benefits and Compensation for Marine Corps Veterans
There are many VA benefits and private forms of compensation available that can ease the burden of living with mesothelioma. Learn how to access these benefits below.
Access Mesothelioma VA Benefits and Compensation
VA benefits are one of the best resources available to U.S. Marine Corps veterans with mesothelioma. The VA offers disability compensation, health care, aid and attendance benefits, and more.
These benefits can help cover the cost of living while you receive treatment and are in recovery.
All you need to claim your benefits are:
- Medical records that state your disability or illness (i.e., mesothelioma)
- Service records that list your job or specialty
- A doctor’s statement that there is a connection between your contact with asbestos during military service and your mesothelioma
Veterans’ dependents and survivors may be eligible for benefits as well.
If you’re ready to get your VA benefits, our VA-accredited claims agents can help you every step of the way. Get help with filing for mesothelioma VA benefits now.
U.S. Marine Veterans and Mesothelioma FAQs
Why are Marine Corps veterans in danger of mesothelioma?
U.S. Marine Corps veterans are at a high risk of mesothelioma if they served before the early 1980s. This is because the U.S. Marine Corps used asbestos in bases, barracks, vehicles, and ships up until this time.
It typically takes 10-50 years after asbestos exposure before symptoms of mesothelioma appear, which is why veterans are only now just getting sick.
The deadly risks of asbestos exposure were hidden by makers of asbestos-based products, who put profits ahead of human life.
Is asbestos still used by the U.S. Marine Corps?
The Marines do not use asbestos in any new buildings, ships, or other assets. However, older military structures may still contain asbestos even today.
Though steps were taken to remove most of the asbestos found on older military bases and ships, it was simply impossible to remove it all as too much had been used.
How can Marine Corps veterans get help after being diagnosed with mesothelioma?
U.S. Marine Corps veterans can get help after a mesothelioma diagnosis by filing for VA benefits. Key mesothelioma VA benefits include monthly financial payouts and free or low-cost mesothelioma treatments.
Marines can also file private claims to get additional compensation. For example, they can pursue payouts through asbestos trust fund claims and lawsuits.
These claims can bring in life-changing money and won't affect a veteran's ability to file for VA benefits. Get started now by calling (877) 450-8973.