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Military Veterans and Asbestos Exposure

If you have served in the United States Armed Forces, you are owed a great debt for the sacrifices you have made. Whether you served in the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, or Army, you have unquestionably sacrificed for your country. In exchange, you deserve the best medical care available for any injuries or illness you have suffered due to your service. To that end, this guide should give you more information about asbestos and mesothelioma to help you understand the risks of exposure to the dangerous substance.

Studies show that up to 30% of military veterans who served before 1970 may have been exposed to asbestos, especially since the dangerous substance was used in a great number of military vehicles and products. Veterans who worked with any of the following items are at serious risk for medical complications caused by asbestos exposure:


Before its dangers were widely known, one of the most popular uses for asbestos was insulation. It’s strength and heat resistance made it seem like the ideal material for this purpose. Ships and shipyards in particular were filled with asbestos insulation. One tragic outcome of the usage of asbestos is the high number of Navy veterans who have developed serious illnesses like mesothelioma.

Navy servicemen and women were at the highest risk of asbestos exposure prior to the 1970’s. However, members of every branch of the military are at risk. Asbestos was used as insulation for a variety of materials, including:

  • Pipes on aircraft and ships
  • Boiler rooms on ships
  • Walls and attics on military bases and shipyards
  • Floor and ceiling tiles
  • Many kinds of machinery

While the use of asbestos has declined in recent decades; buildings, aircraft, and ships constructed prior to the 1970’s may still contain asbestos insulation. It is important to know whether or not this dangerous product is still present in your environment.

Tragic Lies, Tragic Consequences

The saddest fact about asbestos is that workers did not learn about its dangers at the same time as their employers. Many employers, including the US government, chose to keep the dangers of asbestos hidden even when they knew workers’ lives were at risk.

Steam Pipes

Soldiers and sailors are highly trained to cope with whatever dangers they may face in combat. But what happens when they face risks they were never warned about, or do not learn about for decades?

Hundreds of veterans have faced this tragic situation, especially if they are diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, or a related disease. Years after retiring from the service, they may suddenly find themselves with serious illnesses they could not have predicted. Worse, they may even discover that the government knew about the dangers to their health and failed to inform them.

Steam pipes are a necessary component to a well-functioning ship. Naturally, due to the high temperatures they can reach, it is important to keep them well insulated. Until the 1970’s, asbestos was widely considered an ideal insulation material for steam pipes and boilers.

Unfortunately, we now know this was a tragically flawed decision. Many people who installed or repaired steam pipes from World War 2 through the 1970’s have become very sick as a result. This is especially true for members of the Navy and Coast Guard. Living in tight quarters on ships greatly increased the amount of asbestos fibers they inhaled on average.

Even though asbestos is now regulated by the US government, it remains surprisingly common in the workplace. Ships and military buildings constructed before 1980 may still contain this material in steam pipe insulation and other areas.


Millions of Americans served their country bravely during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. They accepted the risks of combat for the sake of a greater goal. Tragically, many of them were exposed to additional risks without any warning. Decades after retiring from the service, many veterans are only now learning the full extent of their wartime injuries.

Nearly a century ago, industrial workers discovered that adding asbestos to cement gave it many new and useful qualities. Cement made with asbestos was stronger, lighter, and easier to mold. It seemed perfect for constructing shingles, wall panels, and sturdy buildings.

During World War II the armed forces began to take advantage of this discovery. Asbestos cement was used to build warships and military buildings. The soldiers who constructed and used these structures were never warned about the risks of the building materials. They simply believed that modern technology had provided a durable and safe construction material.

Sadly, their lack of information was not necessarily shared by the government. Reports of asbestos and health risks were available by the 1950’s. Despite this, asbestos cement remained in common military use through the 1970’s. Even today, there are still some buildings and ships in use that may contain cement made with asbestos.

Many people exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1980 are only now beginning to show the effects. This dangerous substance can cause many grave illnesses, including mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Hot Water Pipes

Asbestos has several qualities that made it a popular building material for centuries. Its durability and heat resistance especially interested the military. At one point the Armed Forces actually required that asbestos be used in the construction of buildings and vehicles. This ended in the 1970’s, when the link between asbestos and mesothelioma became widely known. Unfortunately, this information came too late for hundreds of thousands of veterans who had been exposed to asbestos.

Hot water pipes in warships and military buildings were regularly insulated with asbestos until the government finally began to regulate its use. This was naturally very dangerous to anyone who installed or repaired these pipes. People may not realize how dangerous it also was for anyone who:

  • Worked on a ship or in a military building
  • Lived on a military base
  • Had a relative who worked with asbestos and brought fibers home on his work clothes

People who have served in the Navy have a particularly high risk of developing asbestosis or mesothelioma. This is because of the large amounts of asbestos used in constructing ships, as well as the crowded living conditions that made it very difficult not to inhale asbestos fibers. However, members of the Army, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard may have also been exposed to this deadly substance.


Millions of Americans served their country bravely from the 1930’s through the 1970’s. They knowingly accepted many different risks to both their mental and physical health. Sadly, many veterans were also exposed to further risks without any warning or safety information. One of these risks was asbestos.

Asbestos was used in the manufacturing of many different products, including gaskets of all kinds. This was especially true for the Armed Forces, who valued the material’s low cost and durability. Some government officials may have even valued these qualities more than their employees’ safety. Although the dangers of asbestos were established by the 1950’s, its use in the military did not end until the 1970’s.

Navy veterans are especially at risk for mesothelioma and other illnesses. This is because asbestos was used in the production of nearly every part of a ship. In addition, warships of that time had very poor ventilation. However, members of the Navy were not the only soldiers exposed to asbestos; members of all branches of the military were.

Brakes and Clutches

After giving years of their time and hard work to their country, veterans should be able to rest and enjoy civilian life. Unfortunately, this is not always an option. Many service members who were exposed to asbestos during their time in the military are only now learning of the serious consequences.

Until the 1970’s, every branch of the Armed Forces may have used asbestos to construct many different items. Anyone who worked for the military or lived on a military base could be exposed to this dangerous substance through pipe insulation, roofing tiles, boiler rooms, and more. Even the vehicles people drove were not safe.

Asbestos was a common component in the brakes and clutches of military vehicles. Since asbestos is only dangerous when flakes or fibers are allowed to break off, people who drove these vehicles for short periods of time may not be at risk for mesothelioma. However, anyone who installed or repaired brake pads or clutches may have inhaled deadly asbestos fibers.

The risks of asbestos use were scientifically established by the 1950’s. Tragically, the US government decided these risks were acceptable, and continued using the deadly substance to manufacture military buildings and vehicles. Soldiers and construction workers were not even warned about the threat surrounding them.

Today, many veterans with mesothelioma and their families are seeking fair compensation for this betrayal. If you are among them, an experienced mesothelioma attorney can inform you of your rights and options.

Boilers and Generators

People who served in the Marines, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, or Air Force prior to the 1970’s made many brave sacrifices for their country. Sadly, many of them continue to sacrifice their health and lives to a risk they were never warned about. Asbestos exposure on military bases and shipyards has caused many veterans to become ill decades after their service ended.

Before safety regulations were finally passed in the 1970’s, one of asbestos’s most popular uses was making insulation. This insulation was then used to protect the area around many kinds of heat-generating machines, including boilers, turbines, and generators.

The people most at risk for developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases are those who worked directly with the substance. This includes many construction workers and boiler room workers, especially those in the armed forces. Shockingly, even after the dangers of asbestos became known in the 1950’s, the military continued to use it in many ways for two more decades.

Navy veterans are notoriously at risk for asbestos-related illness, due to the poor ventilation aboard warships of previous decades. However, many people in all of the Armed Forces have been exposed to this deadly substance.

Unfortunately, the consequences of asbestos exposure may not be clear for decades. If you or a loved one has developed a condition like asbestosis or mesothelioma, it could be due to asbestos exposure before the 1970’s. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help you trace the roots of your illness and may be able to help you gain the compensation you deserve.

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