Asbestos in the workplace: veterans

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Asbestos use was widespread throughout the United States Armed Forces for much of the 20th century because of its fireproofing properties and strength. This was especially true in shipbuilding, where components from stem to stern could contain asbestos. Asbestos was used in insulation, paneling, pipes, boilers, gaskets and components used to manage fire risk and a variety of other systems.

Because of the variety of shipboard components that historically contained asbestos, Navy veterans who served in World War II or the Korean War were among those most exposed to asbestos. Navy veterans lived and worked around asbestos containing-materials in shipyards and on board ships. They may have experienced exposure when maintenance, damage or motion released asbestos fibers into the air.

Those who worked directly with components that contained asbestos were most at risk because of their direct contact with the substance. People working in trades like pipefitters and boiler technicians are among those most exposed.

Navy veterans were also commonly exposed to asbestos during shipyard overhauls when they served aboard ships. These overhauls occurred at various shipyards across the united states and involved the removal and replacement of asbestos containing materials.

Asbestos exposure was also common in other branches of the military.

While navy veterans were most likely to experience asbestos exposure, other branches of the military may also have been exposed in a variety of ways. The brakes and clutches used in vehicles, for example, may have contained asbestos, and mechanics working on those vehicles may have breathed in asbestos fibers while they worked. In addition, veterans from any branch of the military may have inhaled asbestos when transported in ships.

Asbestos was also in common use in flooring, roofing tiles, cement and a variety of other materials used to construct military bases. People living in, working in or maintaining those structures could have inhaled asbestos during that time.

Even after many industries in the United States discontinued the use of asbestos, the work of veterans may still have led to exposure. People who repair, maintain or decommission old ships or structures may still be impacted by the longstanding use of this harmful substance. In addition, veterans who served in areas where asbestos use is still common may have been exposed while working in construction, demolition or other areas.

The impact of asbestos exposure can be life-altering.

Even everyday activities can disturb or damage materials containing asbestos, throwing microscopic fibers into the air where they can enter the lungs of people in the area. Once there, asbestos fibers can cause inflammation, scarring or hardening of that tissue.

Asbestos fibers are also highly carcinogenic, which can lead those exposed to develop cancer. One type of cancer commonly linked to asbestos is mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the thin tissue lining the lungs and other organs. Asbestos has also been linked to other forms of cancer as well.

After a veteran develops asbestos-related conditions like asbestosis or mesothelioma, these veterans and their families may want to explore their legal options. Compensation could help ease the financial burden of treatment and provide support as they face these challenges.

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