How US Military Service Members Have Been Exposed to Asbestos

Service members and veterans are at higher risk for developing asbestos-related diseases than other people because of the historical presence of asbestos in buildings, ships and combat situations to which they have been exposed during their service. Last week we published a post on Veterans Day honoring veterans: those who are our clients, our staff and all others.

The Department of Veterans Affairs or VA has a fact sheet about military asbestos exposure, including links to further information.

Asbestos was used historically in many materials that needed to be heat resistant. Examples of such products used by the military include brakes, cement, adhesives, flooring, pipe covering (lagging), gaskets, valves and more. When the microscopic mineral is enclosed or encapsulated within a solid product, it is not dangerous, but if it is released when the product is broken, crushed, burned or otherwise changed from its solid form, asbestos can become airborne and people can breathe it into their lungs or bring it home on clothing to expose loved ones.

According to the VA, asbestos containing materials, called ACMs, were used by the military, particularly the Navy, frequently before the 1970s because asbestos was a component in so many building materials. Servicemen and women could have been exposed in a variety of ways, including during certain kinds of work or by being present in certain places such as:

  • Shipbuilding
  • Shipyards
  • Ship engines and boiler rooms
  • Navigation rooms
  • Sleeping quarters
  • Mess halls
  • Renovation
  • Removal of asbestos materials
  • Below deck on ships
  • Lagging repair
  • Demolition
  • Pipefitting
  • Welding
  • Mining
  • Milling
  • Insulation work
  • Carpentry
  • Construction
  • Working with flooring, roofing, cement, pipes, clutches or brakes

Unfortunately, military asbestos exposure may not be only a thing of the past. For example, multidistrict litigation is ongoing in federal court in Maryland over alleged injuries to service members from exposure to toxic fumes from burn pits in Iraq in which military contractors allegedly burned potentially dangerous substances, including asbestos, reports Law360.

The VA also says that military personnel in Iraq could have been exposed to asbestos when buildings were damaged during combat operations, possibly releasing asbestos into the air.

Any veteran or service member who suspects asbestos exposure may have caused a disease like asbestosis, mesothelioma or lung cancer should speak to an attorney as soon as possible about legal remedies.