Asbestos, the substance which causes the deadly disease mesothelioma, was used extensively by the U.S. Armed Forces between the 1930s and the early 1980s. Marines serving during this time had a high risk of exposure to it. Thankfully, there are VA benefits available for marines who develop this rare form of cancer.
Marine Veterans With Mesothelioma
The U.S. Marine Corps is a small, elite branch of the military, known for being the tip of the spear in combat, however, they aren’t immune to the risks of asbestos. This mesothelioma-causing substance was used everywhere in the Marine Corps from the 1930s to the early 1980s.
Asbestos was used in vehicles, aircraft, ships, buildings, and weapons systems. Marine Corps veterans whose Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) were in construction, often have the highest risk of developing mesothelioma, but veterans who simply operated near these materials are also at risk.
Marine veterans who served aboard Navy vessels also have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma than those who didn’t. This is because there was asbestos on virtually every Navy ship.
Asbestos-containing materials like pipes and gaskets were used for construction purposes, while asbestos was also used for insulation and fireproofing. This means that any marine veteran who worked where asbestos was heavily used had a high risk of developing mesothelioma.
The Marine Corps, as well as other military branches, weren’t aware of the risks associated with asbestos. However, as early as the 1930s, the companies manufacturing the substance knew it could be deadly.
Marine veterans with mesothelioma may be able to file a legal claim against these companies. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also offers benefits to veterans who can prove their mesothelioma was caused by asbestos exposure during their time serving in the Marine Corps.
Get information on:
- Treatment Options
- Mesothelioma Specialists
- Veterans Benefits
History of Asbestos Use in the Marines
Marines were likely exposed to asbestos in the barracks and buildings on base, as well as in vehicles and weapons systems they used on a daily basis. Unfortunately, Marines who worked with the Navy on a regular basis were exposed to more asbestos than Marines who didn’t.
The U.S. military didn’t stop using asbestos until the late 1970s, and it took most of the 1980s to fully remove asbestos materials from its infrastructure.
Marines could have been exposed to asbestos in:
According to the VA, while it is very rare, some modern veterans 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 spores into the air.
Marine barracks were also lined with asbestos. This was typical of the military before the dangers of asbestos were known. Asbestos was used to fireproof Marine barracks.
Asbestos products could be found in the following locations:
- Ceiling tiles
- Flooring tiles
- Heating systems
- Roofing materials
As the materials wore down over time or were removed during maintenance, it was easier for asbestos to be released into the air.
However, Marines with the highest risk were the ones that were building or repairing barracks. These Marines had to handle the materials made from asbestos, and as they were disturbed, asbestos fibers were released into the air.
Marines working with Navy personnel on ships could have been exposed to asbestos at every turn. Asbestos on ships was found in insulation, piping, deck flooring, ceiling tiles, and even in bulkheads.
Anyone on the ship when the asbestos was disturbed could breathe the material into their lungs. When disturbed, asbestos can remain airborne for hours. It can also be carried to other areas on someone’s skin, hair, or clothing.
As that person travels around the ship, they expose other people they come in contact with.
Naval ships were known to have poor ventilation. This allowed asbestos to accumulate and circulate throughout tightly enclosed areas of the ship such as a boiler room or engine room. Marines working in this environment have an increased risk of mesothelioma.
Asbestos exposure was a risk whenever someone worked on:
Dining and sleeping quarters were also a risk for those aboard Navy ships. These quarters were laden with asbestos-containing materials, and asbestos could be released into the air when these materials got older.
Marines working in shipyards were also at high risk for asbestos exposure.
The parts of the ship were generally lined with asbestos to protect it from fires and excessive heat. Incinerators, boilers, and pipes were all lined with asbestos to insulate them and protect workers from these heat-producing systems.
As these ship components were worked on and began aging, more asbestos fibers were released into the air and were breathed in by the Marines working on them.
The military’s largest shipyards were in California, New York, Washington, Virginia, and Oregon. Asbestos products were still being used in Navy ships until the end of the 1970s and early 1980s.
Tanks and other motor transport vehicles used by the Marines contained asbestos. In the 1960s, the Marines used the M60 Patton tank, which also used asbestos insulation for fireproofing.
Inside the M60 Patton tank, gunners operating weapons systems wore gloves lined with asbestos to protect them from burns. The tank’s insulation or firewall would wear down over time, causing asbestos to become airborne and exposing tank operators to the deadly substance.
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, brakes, 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 was used, they may also be at risk, since the barracks and vehicles on these bases used many asbestos products.
Additionally, Marines who regularly worked around asbestos-containing materials could have exposed their loved ones indirectly.
If asbestos fibers were disturbed during work, they could get stuck on the Marines’ uniforms. Family members who hugged their loved ones or handled these uniforms could have unknowingly been exposed to asbestos fibers.