Army Veterans and Mesothelioma
While Navy veterans have the highest rates of mesothelioma of any of the armed forces, army veterans have also been largely at risk during the 20th century. Asbestos, the most common cause of mesothelioma, was used by the U.S. Army in great quantities in bases, barracks, mess halls and other buildings and installations.
In the 1990s, an audit of U.S. Army installations uncovered the fact that asbestos was the leading toxic material at 32 sites. The army was forced to spend over $1 billion to clean up asbestos where it was possible. Other sites had to be demolished or abandoned.
Even though the army stopped using asbestos in new construction in the late 1970s, the toxic material remained in place where it had already been installed. It was not until decades later that existing asbestos was removed. Because of this and the fact that it may take 10 to 40 years after exposure for symptoms to develop, mesothelioma continues to be diagnosed in army veterans even today. Hundreds of thousands of veterans also remain at risk for developing mesothelioma sometime in the future.
Testing for Mesothelioma
Army veterans are recommended to receive regular checkups and watch closely for symptoms that may be related to mesothelioma. This is especially important for army veterans who are sure that they have been exposed to asbestos. Several VA centers have assistance programs in place for army veterans who have been exposed to asbestos or who have developed mesothelioma.
Although the hazards of asbestos were known by military and U.S. government officials before 1940, the material began to be used extensively during World War II. Asbestos was used as insulation because of its high resistance to heat and electricity. It is also a very abundant natural resource, and it is inexpensive to mine and process.
Besides being used for insulation, asbestos was also used by the U.S. Army as a component of cement, floor tiles, roof tiles, adhesives and caulking. Vehicles also used gaskets and brake pads made with asbestos.
Asbestos Exposure Risks
Several jobs performed by U.S. Army servicemen have been found to have a higher risk of exposure to asbestos than others. Some of these risky duties include the following:
- Pipefitting or plumbing
- Shipyard work
- Insulation work
- Vehicle service
U.S. Army veterans who have been stationed overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan have also reportedly been exposed to asbestos. Large quantities of asbestos have been imported by these countries to be used in reconstruction efforts. In addition, many older buildings in these cities contain asbestos and have sustained damage. Building codes are not up to the standards of those in the United States, and when the buildings are damaged during fighting, asbestos fibers are pulled loose and become airborne. They are then easily inhaled by soldiers.
If you are a veteran of the U.S. Army, you may have been exposed to asbestos. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, we may be able to help. For more information, fill out the simple forms on this page.