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Asbestos and the Military

Legally Reviewed by Joseph P. Williams on October 24, 2023

Veterans and current members of the U.S. Armed Forces face countless risks in the line of duty. But one risk that many—especially veterans who served between World War II and the 1970s—are unaware of is the threat of asbestos exposure.

Asbestos exposure can lead to aggressive forms of cancer, specifically mesothelioma and lung cancer. Unfortunately, the symptoms of these diseases may take upward of 30 years to become evident. Some veterans who served decades ago have only recently been diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses.

If you or a loved one developed mesothelioma following military service, award-winning New York asbestos lawyer Joseph P. Williams and the team at The Williams Law Firm are ready to help. The Williams Law Firm is dedicated solely to helping asbestos exposure victims and their families recover the financial peace of mind they need to cope with medical expenses and other damages.

Please call us today at (855) 575-6376 to arrange your free consultation or contact us online to tell us your story now. The Williams Law Firm is based in New York, but we work with clients across the country.

Asbestos Exposure in the Military

During the 1930s and World War II, asbestos was heavily used throughout every branch of the Armed Forces. Asbestos and asbestos-containing products were used throughout military infrastructure, from barracks to ships to vehicles.

Asbestos was prized for its insulation and heat-resistant qualities, as well as its affordable cost. Asbestos use among the U.S. Armed Forces diminished by the 1970s as awareness grew of its life-threatening risks, but it wasn’t until 1998 that the military adopted the Installation Asbestos Management Program.

This program requires all military facilities to minimize the release of harmful asbestos particles and to use asbestos alternatives whenever possible. Each facility must have a thorough asbestos management plan in place and keep an inventory of exposure risk, as well as comply with local, state and federal laws on asbestos use.

How Military Personnel Encounter Asbestos

Asbestos was used in insulation, building materials, heat and flame retardants, vehicle parts and various other goods throughout the Armed Forces. Occupations within the military that faced an increased risk for asbestos exposure include:

  • Shipyard workers
  • Carpenters/construction workers
  • Mechanics
  • Demolition specialists
  • Boiler operators
  • Welders
  • Electricians
  • Pipefitters

Many veterans who were exposed to asbestos between World War II and the 1970s are only in recent years being diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Although mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer, it often takes decades before symptoms of the disease manifest.

Nearly 30 percent of all people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the U.S. are veterans who were unknowingly exposed to asbestos through their service. That is why it’s vitally important that veterans and their loved ones watch for symptoms and understand their personal risks based on their service.

Asbestos Exposure in the Army

The majority of asbestos exposure in the U.S. Army took place during World War II, when the use of asbestos material in the military was at its height.

Veterans who served in the Army until 1980 are most at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases later in life. Some materials used in base and barracks construction contained asbestos, including cement, insulation, shingles and joint compound. Asbestos was also utilized in the construction of Army vehicles for parts such as brakes and gaskets.

Asbestos Exposure in the Navy

Veterans of the U.S. Navy are considered to have the highest risk of exposure to asbestos and the development of mesothelioma due to the material’s widespread use throughout shipyards and ships. Navy members may have come in contact with asbestos during the building, maintenance, repair or demolition of ships, as well as through day-to-day service on a ship, where asbestos-based products were present nearly everywhere.

Boilers and engine rooms were constructed with asbestos-containing pipes, gaskets and insulation. Material containing asbestos also lined the ships as an insulator and to prevent the risk of fire. Asbestos-based insulation covered pipes throughout ships, and asbestos materials were employed in various capacities throughout ships’ interiors. Asbestos was even used in some paint. Shipfitters, boiler workers and welders have been among the most affected by asbestos exposure.

Asbestos Exposure in the Air Force

Most of the exposure to members of the U.S. Air Force occurred between the 1940s and 1970s, when asbestos-based materials were commonly used in products such as brakes, valves, gaskets and electrical wiring.

Asbestos was also found in Air Force bases and barracks, exposing many veterans to asbestos during construction or maintenance. The Air Force also used asbestos as a cost-effective solution for fitting aircraft with flame-retardant sheeting.

Asbestos Exposure in the Marine Corps

Like members of the Navy and Coast Guard, Marine Corps veterans may have been exposed to asbestos on both land and at sea, with many becoming exposed during their service aboard Navy ships.

The Navy regularly transported members of the Marines during World War II. Those Marines may face an increased risk for developing mesothelioma and lung cancer late in life. Bunk rooms and other interior ship compartments were constructed with asbestos-containing materials. On land, military installations and vehicles used asbestos-based products in their building and maintenance.

Asbestos Exposure in the Coast Guard

Veterans who served in the Navy and Coast Guard were exposed to the same types of materials found throughout ships.

The number of mesothelioma cases among Coast Guard veterans is low in relation to other branches of the Armed Forces due to its smaller membership, but those who served in the Coast Guard between the 1940s and 1970s likewise faced a heightened risk of asbestos exposure. Due to the delayed symptoms of asbestos-related diseases, many veterans of the Coast Guard are just now being diagnosed, leading to an increase in mortality rates among this branch.

Legal Help for Veterans Exposed to Asbestos

Compensation is available to veterans afflicted with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Help is also available to families who have lost loved ones due to mesothelioma.

Led by accomplished New York mesothelioma lawyer Joseph P. Williams, The Williams Law Firm has an extensive record of success helping asbestos exposure victims and their families obtain the financial security they need to cope with the physical, emotional and monetary burdens of asbestos-related diseases.

Please call (855) 575-6376 today for a free consultation or contact us online to get started now. The Williams Law Firm is based in New York, but we help mesothelioma patients and their families across the United States.

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