Army veterans face an increased risk of developing pleural mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases because of the large amount of asbestos that was used within the Army between the 1930s and 1970s.
Asbestos is a mineral that was heavily mined for much of the 20th century. It was extensively used in the military during this time because of its exceptional resistance to heat and chemical damage, tensile strength, flexibility and affordability. Asbestos was a cheap option for constructing ships, vehicles and structures on base.
When asbestos is disturbed or becomes damaged from daily wear and tear, the fibers are released into the air and can be inhaled. Prolonged exposure can lead to an accumulation of asbestos fibers in the body, which can lead to pleural mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.
Pleural Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive cancer that is caused by asbestos exposure. It affects the thin layer of tissue surrounding the lungs and can take from 10 to 50 years to develop. Once tumors form, the cancer cells spread rapidly.
Army veterans who believe they may have been exposed to asbestos should receive routine medical checkups for signs of asbestos-related disease.
The military most notably incorporated asbestos throughout its ships. While Army soldiers did not regularly complete their service aboard military sea craft, they did spend a majority of their time operating vehicles and serving on land bases that were constructed with asbestos-containing products and materials.
Thousands of items used within the Army were made with asbestos because it was cheap, fireproof and readily available. Its heat-resistant quality made it an ideal material to use as insulation, and many buildings on Army bases were constructed using asbestos. Barracks, where soldiers lived and slept, contained numerous materials made with asbestos. Any disturbance or repairs to these materials may have exposed those nearby to asbestos.
Army vehicles made between the 1940s and 1970s, including helicopters, tanks and support vehicles, were also likely to have asbestos-containing parts, such as brakes, gaskets and valves. When these parts were replaced or repaired during maintenance, soldiers performing the work may have been exposed to asbestos.
What made the toxic mineral even more dangerous was the fact that many who worked around it were unaware of the hazards associated with exposure. In many cases, military personnel did not know to wear appropriate gear to protect themselves from inhaling asbestos fibers.
In the 1990s, the U.S. Army launched a massive environmental cleanup of its installations. As part of the process, the Army produced a 157-page checklist titled "The Installation Asbestos Management Program Assessment.” The cost of the cleanup at 32 installations totaled $1 billion.
Because the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes pleural mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases as service-connected medical conditions, veterans with these illnesses are eligible to receive a number of financial benefits.
The Pleural Mesothelioma Center’s Veterans Department provides free help to Army veterans who may have been exposed to asbestos during their service. Our experienced VA-Accredited Claims Agents, who are veterans themselves, provide assistance in filing claims with the VA.
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