What Diseases Can Veterans Get From Asbestos?

Extended exposure to a naturally occurring mineral known as asbestos has been known to cause related illnesses and diseases. The most common condition is a cancer called mesothelioma. The U.S. Military heavily used the mineral in the construction of many products, equipment, and structures in the past, putting veterans at risk.

This is an image of a veteran going to the doctor to see what type of conditions he has due to his exposure with asbestos.

Asbestos in the Military

Until the late 1970s, a mineral known as asbestos was used in an abundance of buildings and products. Especially in the military. The mineral is cheap, strong, resistant to fire, electricity, and chemical corrosion, and it was used by many different companies and organizations because of this. After the 1970s, researchers discovered that prolonged asbestos exposure could cause cancer (making it a carcinogen) or other related conditions.

How Exposure Can Cause Asbestos-Related Conditions, Illnesses, and Diseases

Asbestos has two forms, Chrysotile and Amphibole. The type used primarily in construction and consequently harming veterans and others in proximity is chrysotile. The mineral develops as a bundle of fibers, which are generally not dangerous unless being disturbed in construction, renovation, or demolition projects, and the toxic fibers are expelled into the air. Once airborne, the fibers can then be inhaled or ingested by those in the vicinity.

On rarer occasions, the fibers can attach to a worker’s skin, hair, or clothes and be passed along to relatives or close friends. This type of contact with the mineral is also known as secondary or indirect asbestos exposure.

Malignant Cancers

Prolonged exposure to asbestos can cause several related conditions. The mineral is a known carcinogen, which means that it’s been known to cause cancer. Some malignant cancers that can be caused by extended contact with the toxin’s fibers include:

Mesothelioma

The disease that forms most commonly from prolonged asbestos exposure, mesothelioma occurs when cancerous cells grow in the lining of the lungs (pleura), the abdomen (peritoneum), or the heart (pericardium). The illness has a long latency period, which means the disease can take over 30 years to develop. This makes it prevalent in older veterans and seniors.

Lung Cancer

This form of cancer is characterized by tumors that develop in the lungs, versus mesothelioma, where tumors develop in the lung tissue linings. Lung cancer has a latency period that can take at least 15 years to show up after initial exposures.

Veterans who were diagnosed with mesothelioma may be eligible for VA compensation. To find out if you qualify, speak with a patient advocate today.

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Laryngeal Cancer

Also known as “throat” cancer, laryngeal cancer is another potential side effect of prolonged asbestos exposure. The disease occurs when tumors grow and develop in the tissues of the larynx, or “voice box.”

Stomach Cancer

If a person accidentally swallows or otherwise ingests the mineral’s toxic fibers, they can cause the development of tumors in this region over time. Stomach (Gastric) cancer is characterized by tumors forming in the lining of the stomach over time.

Colon Cancer

This is when cancer grows in the tissue of the colon. The colon helps with processing waste from the body, so if harmful fibers are swallowed and then lodged in the colon, that person could develop colon cancer after a while.

Ovarian Cancer

In more unique instances, women have developed tumors in the tissue of the ovary from extended exposure to the toxin’s dangerous fibers.

Non-Malignant Asbestos-Related Conditions

Extended exposure to asbestos can also cause non-malignant related conditions. Some illnesses that a person can develop are:

Asbestosis

When asbestos dust gets lodged in the lungs, the tissue around it gets irritated, scratched, and scarred. When lung fibrosis is caused by toxic dust, it’s otherwise known as asbestosis. The disease also has a lag in development time and can take over 40 years to form.

Pleural Effusion

This disease occurs when layers between the pleura (tissues lining the lower lungs) fill with liquid. It usually takes about 10 or more years to develop. Researchers had also discovered instances when pleural effusions occurred in patients who had minimal exposure to the mineral.

Peritoneal Effusion

Similar to pleural effusion, this condition occurs when the peritoneum (lining of the abdomen) fills with liquid.

Pericardial Effusion

Much like pleural and peritoneal effusion, when the lining of the heart (pericardium) fills with liquid, pericardial effusion has developed.

COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) forms when the airflow in the lungs is blocked.

Atelectasis

This illness develops when some or all of the lung or lobe collapses. It can be caused when alveoli (small air sacs) fill with fluid.

Pleural Plaques

When the parietal pleural space (lining of the upper middle of the lungs) develops hyalinized collagen fibers (hardened blocks) from prolonged exposure to the toxic dust. This can take 10 years or more to grow.

Pleural Thickening

Another common development from asbestos exposure, pleural thickening forms when the pleura gets filled with liquid that hardens or thickens.

Pleuritis

This condition is also known as pleurisy and develops when the pleural area becomes inflamed.

Veterans with mesothelioma can take action without affecting their benefits.

(205) 271-4100

This is a woman calling regarding her previous exposure to asbestos.

Was I Exposed to Asbestos During My Time of Service in the Military?

Veterans who work in certain occupations or with specific products are at higher risk of getting exposed to asbestos than others. Go to a nearby VA hospital or treatment center and get tested for illnesses that affect the lungs (like mesothelioma) if you’ve worked in any of the following jobs during your time of service or other time:

  • Construction
  • Carpentry
  • Demolition/Renovation
  • Mining
  • Milling
  • Shipyards

Get tested if you’ve produced or worked with the following:

  • Insulation
  • Flooring
  • Roofing
  • Cement Sheets
  • Pipes
  • “Friction products” like automotive clutches and brakes

Next Steps for Veterans

If you’re a veteran that believes they were exposed to asbestos during their time in the military and have received a positive diagnosis for a related condition, you could be entitled to compensation from the VA or other entity. Reach out to an experienced mesothelioma attorney. They’ll be able to go over your case and tell you the best path for moving forward against the companies responsible for your exposure.

You don’t have to go through this alone. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also has many conduits of information for interested vets.