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Asbestos Exposure in the Air Force

The U.S. Air Force and other military branches heavily used asbestos in numerous applications from the 1930s through the early 1980s. Service members exposed to the hazardous material have suffered from severe and deadly illnesses, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and chronic lung disease. The respected asbestos legal team at Bergman Oslund Udo Little helps Air Force mesothelioma victims and their families seek justice and fair compensation for asbestos exposure and subsequent illnesses.

Asbestos use in the Air Force was prevalent until the 1980s. The material was widely used because it is strong, fire-resistant, and cheap to mine and manufacture. The Air Force used asbestos in insulation, building materials, and gear issued to personnel. The material was also used in components of military vehicles, planes, and bases.

Asbestos doesn’t break down once it enters the body. It accumulates in organs and can cause disease decades after initial exposure. Air Force mesothelioma victims and veterans with asbestosis and lung cancer can seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. Contact the experienced lawyers at Bergman Oslund Udo Little to learn about your legal options.

Why Choose Our Mesothelioma Lawyers for U.S. Air Force Veterans

At Bergman Oslund Udo Little, we have collected over $1 billion for our clients. We have a long history of successful case results  in mesothelioma lawsuits, including: 

We are a small firm with a narrow focus, allowing us to deliver personalized special attention to every client. Recognized by national organizations like Super Lawyers and National Trial Lawyers – Top 100, our lawyers are committed to treating every client with compassion and respect. 

We act as zealous advocates throughout settlement negotiations and in court, taking advantage of our proprietary database on asbestos risk sites in the Pacific Northwest and the legal experience we’ve gained in hundreds of asbestos cases.

Air Force Veterans and Asbestos Exposure

Air Force veterans were potentially exposed to asbestos in the buildings where they lived and worked, the vehicles they drove, and the aircraft they flew. Many manufacturers knew about asbestos hazards for decades but hid them from the military to protect profits. 

Asbestos in Aircraft

Asbestos was used on aircraft because of its ability to withstand friction and fire resistance. It was in gaskets, clutches, brakes, cockpit heating systems, and the plane body in electrical insulation, wiring, cargo bays, and other areas.  

Asbestos entered the air as components wore down or technicians ground or moved parts. Pilots and mechanics breathed in asbestos fibers, the only known cause of mesothelioma.

Asbestos on Air Force Bases

The Air Force used asbestos to construct barracks, other buildings, and various military vehicles between the 1930s and early 1980s. Some of the uses of asbestos on Air Force bases included:

It also used asbestos-containing products such as paints and adhesives. As asbestos-bearing products wear down or are moved, cut, or disturbed, the material’s microscopic fibers are released into the air. Those exposed can inhale or ingest the fibers, which accumulate in bodily tissue over time.

If serving in the Air Force led to you developing mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, contact a Bergman Oslund Udo Little asbestos lawyer in Oregon or Washington for help.

Air Force Jobs With the Highest Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Air Force members exposed to asbestos at job sites have an especially high risk of developing long-term illnesses. Since then, regulations have limited asbestos use, but the material remains in older products and buildings, cleanup is ongoing, and service members may continue to face exposure. Those most at risk include the following:

Aircraft Mechanics

Asbestos was used in aircraft parts such as brakes and cockpit heating systems. Air Force mechanics may have faced risks from handling asbestos-filled brake pads and manipulating other worn parts such as gaskets.

Additionally, mechanics historically spent time in cockpits and other areas of aircraft containing asbestos. Their work was often in small spaces, making it difficult to avoid breathing in asbestos fibers.

Aviation Machinists

Aviation machinists test and work on aircraft propellers and engines, many of which contain asbestos. Often, they had to grind brakes, which released dangerous asbestos dust.

Boiler Tenders

Air Force boiler tenders maintain and repair steam and hot water boilers. Asbestos was a commonly used insulator on boilers due to its fire resistance. It was used on both aircraft and Air Force ships and boats. 

Boiler rooms tend to be small and not well-ventilated. Before asbestos regulations, boiler tenders were exposed to the material in the parts they worked on and the insulation they dismantled to get to the boilers.

Gunner's Mates

Gunner’s mates operate and maintain weapons, missile launch systems, and other ordnance equipment. Historically, they were exposed to asbestos while testing and inspecting systems in areas where asbestos products broke down and released dangerous fibers. 

Gunner’s mates handled asbestos products such as wiring, pipe, and duct insulation, as well as asbestos-covered cables and asbestos cloths used to protect weapons against heat.

HVAC Specialists

The Air Force commonly used asbestos to insulate HVAC systems, and system components often contained the material. HVAC specialists work in small spaces and had to remove asbestos-filled insulation before beginning work.

Removing insulation by grinding, cutting, or sawing through it releases asbestos fibers. There was additional exposure if HVAC specialists had to remove asbestos-laden gaskets, pipes, or ceiling tiles.


Air Force pilots were near plane engine components and plane parts containing asbestos. They were also exposed to asbestos in hangars and office buildings and when they returned to their barracks.

Plumbers and Pipefitters

Before the 1980s, asbestos was a common pipe insulator. Air Force plumbers and pipefitters often had to handle asbestos-containing materials to get to the components they needed to work on.

Removing asbestos is very dangerous without proper personal protective gear, and the Air Force and other military branches did not offer this protection until well after many veterans were exposed.


Air Force welders handled asbestos components such as insulation, welding rods, boilers, and pipes. The nature of their work often meant releasing dangerous asbestos fibers in confined spaces.

Welding rods were a particular danger, as they are the tool welders use as filler metal to create joints. Before public awareness of the dangers of asbestos, many rods were coated with it for heat protection.

What Compensation Can Air Force Veterans Claim?

There are three main avenues through which Air Force veterans can receive compensation for their asbestos-related diseases. Consult an experienced Bergman Oslund Udo Little asbestos lawyer in Washington or Oregon to discuss your case and determine the next steps.

VA Claims

Veterans exposed to asbestos during their service who later develop an asbestos-related illness can file for disability compensation benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA disability benefits for Air Force veterans exposed to asbestos include monthly compensation, VA health care, and access to veterans’ programs.

After you file a claim, the VA determines whether your service is connected to your illness. They will look at your service data, medical records, and letters from your doctors. Family members of veterans who died from service-related illnesses may be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

Hiring a lawyer isn’t required when filing for VA benefits, but our experienced asbestos attorneys at Bergman Oslund Udo Little are well-versed in the process and can help you receive the maximum compensation. We can also help you through the complex VA appeals process if your claim is denied.

Mesothelioma Claims

If you have developed mesothelioma or another disease from asbestos exposure during your Air Force service, you can file a civil lawsuit against those parties outside the military that are responsible, such as asbestos manufacturers and suppliers. You may be able to pursue non-economic and economic compensation. Non-economic compensation covers hard-to-quantify losses, such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, while economic compensation covers verifiable losses, such as medical fees and lost wages. You can collect this compensation in addition to VA benefits.

If a family member has died from mesothelioma or another illness caused by exposure in the Air Force, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Successful wrongful death lawsuits compensate for the deceased’s burial and funeral costs, lost wages, and loss of consortium. 

Contact us today for a free consultation so we can review your Air Force Veteran exposure case and determine who is responsible for your illness.

Asbestos Trust Funds

Due in part to litigation costs and payouts to asbestos-exposure victims, about 100 companies that produced asbestos-containing products have declared bankruptcy. Many of these bankrupt companies were ordered to establish asbestos trust funds to pay for victims’ future damages.

Some of these trust funds ran out of money, but not all. Contact Bergman Oslund Udo Little. One of our experienced asbestos attorneys will review whether you can apply to an asbestos trust fund for compensation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Asbestos Still Present on U.S. Air Force Bases?

Asbestos remains on U.S. Air Force bases despite vast efforts to remove the material starting in the 1980s. Removal continues as new sources come to light, such as at the chapel at the Air Force Academy.

Are Family Members of U.S. Air Force Members at Risk of Mesothelioma?

Family members of U.S. Air Force personnel are at risk of mesothelioma because asbestos may be carried home on clothing and skin. If you are a family member of an Air Force veteran and you develop an asbestos-related illness, pursuing compensation through a lawsuit or trust fund claim may be an option.

Does the Military Still Use Asbestos?

The military no longer uses asbestos in new construction, but the material may be present in older buildings and vehicle parts.

Contact Bergman Oslund Udo Little for a Free Mesothelioma Case Review

If you developed mesothelioma or another condition due to asbestos exposure during your military service, it is important to contact us and take legal action to get the compensation you deserve. 

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Representing Asbestos and Mesothelioma Clients Throughout the Northwest.
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520 Pike St.
Seattle, WA 98101

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1355 NW Everett St.
Suite 100
Portland, OR 97204

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