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Military servicemembers and asbestos exposure

As Veteran's Day approaches, it is a good time to think about the dedication and sacrifices of our military servicemen and women. In order to safeguard our freedoms and protect our way of life, the brave enlisted personnel and officers of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and National Guard endure many challenges, including long hours away from family and deployments to active combat sites.

For older veterans in particular (those serving during the times of World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam Conflict) and even for those not quite as old (those serving in the Persian Gulf War/Operation Desert Storm), there is a lingering issue from their military service: the health impact of asbestos exposure.

The Navy: hardest hit by asbestos

Extensive medical documentation shows that Navy vets disproportionately suffer from mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, and other health conditions. Asbestos was widely used in shipbuilding for various reasons including its fireproofing qualities. It was used not only in the engine compartments of large vessels like submarines, destroyers, battleships and aircraft carriers, but also in piping, galley kitchens, mess halls, and sleeping berths.

Especially during WWII and the Korean War, many members of the Army and Marines Corps were transported to Europe and Asia on Liberty ships or troop transport ships. Asbestos was prevalent on these ships as well, thus exposing these non-Navy servicemembers to asbestos on naval vessels.

Asbestos was also prevalent in smaller Coast Guard boats, cutters and icebreakers. The incidence of mesothelioma is lower for Coast Guard veterans because of smaller enlistment numbers compared to the Navy and less time spent aboard the vessels. But it is still a significant concern for many Coast Guard vets.

Other branches of the military did not escape the impact of asbestos either. Asbestos appeared in military bases across the country until well into the 1980s. Mechanics in the Air Force and Army were undoubtedly exposed to asbestos through their work with equipment such as asbestos-containing brake pads and gaskets.

As with homes, office buildings, and industrial buildings, military buildings were often constructed with asbestos-containing materials such as roofing products, siding, wallboard, and floor tiles. Now, as these aging structures are torn down or renovated, a new generation of veterans and servicemembers faces exposure. Those serving in the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in operations fighting the so-called "Islamic State" (ISIS) in Syria and Yemen, may be in the danger zone from asbestos now.

Tying asbestos to military service

If you or someone you love was exposed to asbestos while serving our country and now suffers from asbestos lung cancer, pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma or another condition, you are not alone. Seek the advice of a skilled mesothelioma attorney to learn more about your rights and possible options you may have for legal action.

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