Mesothelioma in the Marines

Quick Summary

A high volume of asbestos was used across many applications between World War II and 1980. Marines serving during this time had a high risk of asbestos exposure. It was in vehicles, aircraft, ships and buildings. This caused mesothelioma in some veterans of the Marine Corps.

Marine Veterans With Mesothelioma

The Marines are a small, elite branch of the military. But they weren’t immune to the risks of asbestos. This mesothelioma-causing substance was used everywhere in the Marine Corps.

Marine veterans who served aboard Navy vessels have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma than those who didn’t. This is because there was asbestos on virtually every foot of Navy ships.

Marine Corps veterans can access special benefits including:

  • Mesothelioma Specialist Treatment in the VA. Treatment through the VA Healthcare System is often free for Marines. Since mesothelioma is a rare and complex disease, it’s a necessity to get treated by an experienced doctor. Luckily, there are 2 top mesothelioma surgeons in the VA. They treat veterans from all over the country.
  • VA Financial Benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs has multiple benefits to help pay for the cost of living. These benefits are meant to compensate veterans for an inability to work. Disability benefits and pension can also allow Marine veterans to focus on rest and recovery without worrying about paying the bills.
  • Asbestos Industry Trusts. Asbestos companies sold their products to the military with the knowledge that their products could be deadly. When the truth came out, these companies faced a huge number of lawsuits. In response, they were court-ordered to set up trust funds to compensate their victims. More than $30 Billion is currently available through these trusts.

The Marine Corps, as well as other military branches, weren’t aware of the risks associated with asbestos but manufacturers of asbestos-containing products knew it could be deadly. Not only did they know the risk, but they also hid this information from the U.S. government and the civilian population. Marine veterans with mesothelioma may be able to file a legal claim against these companies, especially if they had occupational asbestos exposure after their military service. Legal claims are just another form of financial compensation to provide peace of mind to mesothelioma victims.

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Get information on:

  • Treatment Options
  • Mesothelioma Specialists
  • Veterans Benefits

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Did you know?

According to the VA, “Veterans who served in Iraq and other countries in that region could have been exposed to asbestos when older buildings were damaged and the contaminant released into the air.”

History of Asbestos Use in the Marines

The Marines were exposed to asbestos in buildings and vehicles just like every other military branch, the difference is the amount of exposure faced by Marines. The Marines who worked with the Navy on a regular basis were exposed to more asbestos than Marines who didn’t.

The Navy had the highest risk of asbestos exposure. The U.S. military didn’t stop using asbestos in its infrastructure until the late-1970s. And it took most of the 1980s to fully remove asbestos materials from the infrastructure. Marines could have been exposed to asbestos in ships, shipyards, vehicles and barracks.


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.

If you served on a Navy ship while in the Marines, check the U.S. Navy ship list to see if your ship contained asbestos.

Anyone on the ship when asbestos was disturbed could breathe the material into their lungs. When disturbed, asbestos can remain airborne for hours, and anyone walking into the area can be exposed. Asbestos can also be carried to other areas on someone’s skin, hair or clothing. As that person travels around the ship, they exposed other people they came in contact with.

Did you know?

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 pipes, boilers, engines, cables, gaskets, valves or insulation.

Dining and sleeping quarters were also a risk for those aboard a Naval ship. These quarters were laden with asbestos-containing materials. When these materials got older, asbestos could be released into the air.


Marines working in shipyards were also at high risk for asbestos exposure. Marines were tasked with security and sometimes in the construction of ship infrastructure.

Infrastructure was generally lined with asbestos to protect it from fires and excessive heat. Incinerators, boilers and pipes were all lined with asbestos in order to insulate them and protect workers from these heat producing systems. 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 used asbestos insulation for fireproofing.

Inside the M60 Patton tank, gunner’s operating weapons systems wore gloves lined with asbestos to protect them from burns. The tank’s insulation or firewall would wear down over time. This caused asbestos to become airborne, 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.


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
  • Doors
  • Flooring tiles
  • Heating systems
  • Insulation
  • Piping
  • 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.

Get a FREE Veterans Packet

Get information on:

  • Treatment Options
  • Mesothelioma Specialists
  • Veterans Benefits

Learn More

Getting Your VA Benefits

VA benefits are one of the best resources available to Marine veterans with mesothelioma. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers disability, pension, aid and attendance and more. These benefits programs can help cover the cost of living while you receive treatments and are in recovery.

Remember that Marine veterans with mesothelioma have:

  • Access to monthly financial compensation through VA benefits
  • A 100% disability rating in the VA, meaning they get maximum compensation
  • VA benefits to support dependents and spouses
  • Compensation through asbestos trusts for those who also experienced occupational asbestos exposure

If you’re ready to get your VA benefits, our VA claims agent can help you every step of the way. Our claims agent is VA-accredited and has experience putting together all the documentation you need to get the maximum benefits. Find out more about getting help filing your VA benefits now.

Author:Mesothelioma Veterans Center

Veterans Support Team

Mesothelioma Veterans Center

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center editorial team consists of experienced veterans, family members and medical professionals. Our work is focused on helping veterans with mesothelioma receive the benefits they need and the compensation they deserve. We love our country and are passionate about serving those who first served us.

Last modified: September 25, 2019

View Sources

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Compensation - Asbestos Exposure.” Retrieved from: Accessed on September 27th, 2017.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Military Hazardous Exposures.” Retrieved from: Accessed on September 27th, 2017.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. M21-1, Part IV, Subpart ii, Chapter 1, Section 1. “Developing Claims for Service Connection (SC) Based on Other Exposure Types.”

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