Asbestos was heavily used in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, Vietnam, and Korea. In fact, military veterans account for one-third of all mesothelioma diagnoses. Luckily, all Army veterans are eligible for VA benefits if they were exposed to asbestos while serving in the Army and then later developed mesothelioma.
Army Veterans With Mesothelioma
Many veterans have developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure during their time in the Army. Mesothelioma was used in the U.S. Armed Forces from the 1930s until the early 1980s. During that time, soldiers were often exposed to asbestos through their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).
Mechanics and those doing construction often came into contact with asbestos because it was used for insulation and fireproofing purposes.
When materials containing asbestos are used or disturbed, spores are released into the air. These spores can circulate in the air and are breathed in or can stick to a person’s hair, skin, and clothes for hours after exposure.
Asbestos exposure wasn’t the Army’s fault. The dangers of asbestos weren’t widely known until the early 1980s because asbestos companies kept them secret. Once they were discovered, the Army began removing asbestos from places where soldiers could be harmed.
Manufacturers of asbestos-containing products are responsible for victims of asbestos exposure in all walks of life.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has benefits available for veterans who can prove their mesothelioma was caused by asbestos exposure during their time in the military.
These benefits are both financial and medical and exist to relieve the burden of living with mesothelioma for veterans and their loved ones.
Get information on:
- Treatment Options
- Mesothelioma Specialists
- Veterans Benefits
History of Asbestos Use in the Army
Army veterans are at risk of getting mesothelioma because the U.S. Armed Forces used asbestos extensively because of its ability to insulate and fireproof nearly all of their buildings, ships, planes, weapons systems, and equipment.
Some of these asbestos-containing materials include:
- Brake pads
- Cement foundation
- Clutch plates
- Flooring and ceiling tiles
- Roofing materials
When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or degraded, asbestos becomes airborne. Airborne asbestos fibers can be breathed in and lodge in the lining of the lungs. Years later, these fibers can turn healthy cells into mesothelioma.
Asbestos can also get caught on clothing, hair, and skin, exposing others. Service members operating heavy artillery or weapons systems often wore gloves and suits laced with asbestos to prevent burns to their bodies.
“Service members who worked with, handled, damaged, or disturbed any [asbestos-containing materials] may have had some asbestos exposure as a result.”
– Office of Public Health
The health dangers posed by asbestos were hidden from the military until the late 1970s. Since then, the Army has removed most of the products that were made from asbestos. Unfortunately, those exposed to asbestos during their time of service are at risk for developing mesothelioma 20-50 years after exposure.
Barracks and other buildings all contained asbestos for insulation purposes and Army bases were laden with asbestos. Thankfully, almost all asbestos has been removed or refitted.
“Several years ago, I was contacted by an Army artilleryman with pleural mesothelioma. He was inquiring about any VA benefits for which he might be eligible. I explained that we could file for VA Disability. But at the time, he knew of no Army exposure, and we opted not to file the claim. However, several months later, he called me back and explained that his lawyer had managed to figure out that the gloves he wore while handling hot artillery shells for six years in the Army were actually made out of asbestos. We filed the claim and he was approved. So, never say never.”
– Retired Senior Veteran
Army Asbestos Exposure in the 21st Century
Most military members have not been exposed to asbestos since the 1980s. However, soldiers that served in the Iraq War may have been exposed to asbestos.
Nations in the Middle East still use asbestos in buildings and other infrastructure. When buildings were demolished or damaged during the war, asbestos was likely released into the air.