Asbestos in the Military

After serving in the United States military, veterans are rightfully instilled with a sense of pride, dedication and valor. Unfortunately for many veterans, they also leave the service with something else: a history of asbestos exposure.

Until the 1970s, asbestos products were not just common in most military facilities, they were required. Naval standards mandated that asbestos insulation be installed in its ships and submarines, while airplanes and helicopters made for the Air Force were also built with flame-resistant asbestos parts.

More than 300 different military products contained asbestos, including brakes for Army tanks, cockpit cooling systems for Air Force helicopters and boilers for Navy frigates. Even everyday construction materials such as adhesives and paint used to build military bases were laced with asbestos.

Although the Navy banned the use of asbestos in 1973 and the other branches similarly phased out the use of asbestos around the same time, many older military structures like forts and barracks still contain asbestos. These fibers can be released into the air during construction or accidental damage of the structures.

When asbestos from military property is released into the air, servicemen and women face the risk of inhaling the fibers and developing asbestos-related diseases. Mesothelioma, asbestosis and asbestos-related lung cancer (among other asbestos-related illnesses) are commonly diagnosed in veterans – especially veterans who served before the military discontinued its use of asbestos.

Many of these asbestos-related diseases carry a grim prognosis, but veterans who have developed one or more of these conditions have a number of support options they can turn to. Many VA hospitals are experienced in treating veterans with these diseases, and financial support for treatment is often available to veterans who are eligible for disability benefits.

If you can prove that asbestos exposure during service led to fibrosis, asbestosis, pleural effusions or plaques, mesothelioma or certain asbestos-related cancers, you may be eligible to file an asbestos claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

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