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Military veterans disproportionately affected by asbestos

We have discussed the various ways in which people all across the country may be affected by lethal exposure to asbestos. The fiber can be found in our homes, our cars and at the jobs we go to nearly every day. However, the threat of exposure that continues today may be dwarfed by the levels of exposure to asbestos that members of the United States military were subjected to for decades.

Up until the 1980s, members of the military were disproportionately exposed to materials that contained asbestos. In fact, the use of this fiber in shipbuilding was mandated in the Navy for four decades after the risks of exposure were learned. Asbestos was used in everything from pipe insulation to aprons and gloves worn in extremely hot environments. Many of the members of the U.S. military, particularly those onboard ships and submarines, were exposed to the deadly fiber.

Many of these veterans developed mesothelioma, a deadly cancer caused by asbestos. More than 30 percent of the people who have died from mesothelioma are military veterans, even though they only make up about 8 percent of the total population. This significant imbalance illustrates the extreme levels of exposure that were suffered by members of our U.S. military.

It is estimated that every ship commissioned between 1930 and 1970 contained extremely high levels of asbestos. Additionally, veterans of the Vietnam War were also in contact with asbestos that was never properly removed from ships, in the barracks and on military vehicles. From the builders of ships to the soldiers who worked in mechanical shops to the people who were tasked with eventual removal of asbestos, millions of people have been affected just by the asbestos used in military products and vessels.

Coping with a devastating diagnosis of asbestos-related cancer can, no doubt, be extremely difficult for victims and their families. Treatment can be expensive, which is why it is common for victims to pursue financial support. For many, this includes disability benefits from the Veterans' Administration, but additional financial compensation may also be awarded in lawsuits against third parties.

Source: Military.com, "Asbestos and the Military, History, Exposure & Assistance," accessed Jan. 3, 2013

  • Our firm works with victims nationwide who have been affected by exposure to asbestos, including members of the U.S. military. For more information, please visit our page on Asbestos Exposure in the Navy.

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