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Asbestos and Marine Veterans

Veterans of the U.S. Marine Corps, like veterans of all U.S. military branches, are at risk for developing pleural mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases from exposure to asbestos during their service.

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Asbestos resists heat and chemical damage, and is flexible and strong. This made it a coveted material in home construction, industrial occupations and within the U.S. military, where it was used in ships, aircraft and armored vehicles that were a vital part of Marine Corps training and transportation into combat.

By the time the dangers of asbestos were fully known, asbestos-containing products were in use in nearly every facet of the military and of American life. Even then, asbestos product manufactures overlooked its hazardous effects to benefit from its many desirable properties.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the Environmental Protection Agency began to regulate asbestos, and many military institutions, ships, aircraft and transportation vehicles that were already constructed with asbestos remained in use.

Marine veterans who may have been exposed to asbestos should seek routine medical checkups with a qualified physician. Veterans who were exposed decades ago may just now begin to feel symptoms of mesothelioma, including shortness of breath and chest pain.

Asbestos Exposure Among Marine Corps Veterans

Marines were put at risk by the military’s extensive use of asbestos from the 1930s through the 1970s. During training, combat and downtime on base, Marines were exposed on a daily basis, whether they were on land or at sea.

On land, sleeping quarters on military bases contained asbestos-laden materials, including bedding and piping around the rooms. The slightest disturbance to any of these materials, which could happen just by rolling around while sleeping, could cause the asbestos fibers to become airborne. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, it can cause many long-term health effects, including pleural mesothelioma.

Just about every military institution on land was built with asbestos-containing products, such as flooring and ceiling tiles, roofing materials, and wall and other forms of insulation. Military vehicles that transported Marines on the ground contained asbestos in engine parts, brake pads and gaskets.

Marines were also exposed to asbestos through their involvement with the Navy and when they were deployed at sea. On many occasions, Marines and Navy personnel worked side by side on ships during missions. Marines often used naval vessels for transportation during conflicts, and these voyages provided additional opportunities for members of both military branches to be exposed to asbestos.

Larger vessels such as battleships, destroyers and aircraft carriers contained an alarming number of asbestos-containing products, placing sailors and Marines at high risk for asbestos exposure. Small Navy vessels such as tugboats and ferries also contained asbestos products.

Ships and shipyards were prime locations for asbestos-containing materials, as vessels were required to be built with fireproof products, especially in boiler and engine rooms where temperatures were often high. Asbestos was also used in dining halls, deck coverings and around pipes as insulation throughout the ships.

Sleeping quarters on ships likely were more dangerous than sleeping quarters on bases. Because of the tight quarters and the recycled air, asbestos fibers were easily disturbed and distributed throughout the ships. Sailors and Marines aboard these ships were likely exposed daily to asbestos.

Any Marine who helped maintain these ships while deployed overseas also was exposed to asbestos. When asbestos-containing products were repaired or replaced, it is likely that the fibers were disturbed and inhaled.

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Free Resources for Marine Corps Veterans

The Veterans Department at the Pleural Mesothelioma Center provides free assistance to Marine Corps veterans who suffer from an asbestos-related disease.

Marine Corps veterans are eligible for a number of financial benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Our experienced staff can help veterans secure the benefits they deserve from the VA. We can also answer any questions you have about asbestos exposure and asbestos-related conditions.

Whether you need assistance with the complex process of filing a VA claim or you are seeking some advice, we are here to help.

Danielle DiPietro

Danielle DiPietro

As a Patient Advocate, Danielle DiPietro’s mission is to guide patients through the process of pleural mesothelioma treatment, ensuring they receive the best medical, financial and emotional support available. Danielle is accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs as an official Claims Agent, allowing her to provide professional guidance to veterans and family members who need to file a claim for specialized VA benefits.

Last Modified March 22, 2019

3 Cited Article Sources

  1. Bartrip, Peter. (2006). Beyond the Factory Gates: Asbestos and Health in Twentieth Century America. New York: Continuum.
  2. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2012, December). Exposure To Asbestos: A Resource for Veterans, Service Members, and Their Families. Retrieved from
  3. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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