Asbestos has affected Navy veterans more than any other military branch. When naval ships were constructed, asbestos was used consistently because of its heat-resistant properties. The confined spaces where sailors lived and the lack of ventilation increased their exposure to asbestos dust and fibers. Navy vets have the highest percentage chance of developing mesothelioma among all other military branches.
Here are some of the naval jobs that exposed sailors to asbestos:
- Boiler Tech
- Control man
- Gunners Mate
Marine Corps Veterans and Mesothelioma
Marines were also incredibly vulnerable to exposure to asbestos in the military. The toxic substance lined armored vehicles, planes, and ships that provided transportation to battle zones In addition, the bases where they lived and trained were covered in the toxic chemical as well.
Marine Corps mechanics and repairmen were among the service members who unknowingly worked with crumbling asbestos. For that reason, service members in these positions often risked the most exposure to form of airborne dust and particles.
Army Veterans and Mesothelioma
Exposure to asbestos in the military occurred for Army service members during the 20th century mostly in buildings where the ate, slept and worked. In many of these buildings, the substance covered pipes, flooring, roofing materials, as well as insulation and cement foundations.
Even though asbestos use in new constructions ended by the late 1970’s, the substance remained in Army Installations decades later. Over several decades, 32 military bases were shut down and on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list of worst toxic waste sites. The bases required an estimated $1 billion environmental cleanup.
Air Force Exposure to Asbestos
Much like every other branch of the military, US Air Force servicemen and women flew aircraft that used asbestos as an insulator. The substance provided much-needed heat protection in the cockpit, heat shields, and overall insulation. Similar to mechanics across the five branches, mechanics were at the highest risk of inhaling fibers. Pilots were also at an increased risk because they were sitting in cockpits covered in the substance.
US Coast Guard Exposure to Asbestos
Exposure to asbestos in the military occurred for Coast Guard members comes from the fact that manufacturers used the substance liberally throughout much of the 20th century. Notably, there was some concern about the dangers of asbestos as far back as World War II. However, because of the pressing threat of fires on ships, builders ignored the concerns because of the substances’ benefits. As a result, gaskets, boiler room equipment, pumps, turbines, electrical insulation, pipes, and plumbing all contained the product. Asbestos fiber was even woven through the ropes used throughout ships. Ships weren’t the only place where exposure occurred, housing structures and buildings around Coast Guard bases also contained the substance.
In recent years, the Coast Guard has taken extra steps to protect its members from asbestos exposure. For example, members moving into any structure built before 1981, they must sign a Disclosure of Environmental Health Hazards in Coast Guard Housing contract.