Mesothelioma and the Army
Up until 1947, the Air Force was a division of the Army. Post-World War I, and ramping up to World War II, was a critical time for new construction and rebuilding of cities were critical to the emerging war effort. The rapidly growing Air Force, partnered with the necessary expansion of the military, created a demand for cost-effective material. Naturally, a mineral that could easily and cheaply become incorporated into concrete and steel to make it more durable and heat-resistant was the perfect answer. This “miracle mineral,” however, would later be determined to be a potent carcinogen that was killing many of the people who had been exposed to it.
Asbestos Exposure in the Army
Exposure to asbestos may seem harmless initially –– it has been used in thousands of homes, buildings, and consumer products –– but continuous exposure could lead to the development of cancer. In its natural state, asbestos is a classification of fibrous minerals. However, friable asbestos, which refers to the material in an easily crumbled state, can become airborne. When this mineral is inhaled, microscopic barbs attach to the inside of the body. This typically happens in the mouth, esophagus, lungs, and chest cavity. While this could cause cancer in any of those areas, asbestos exposure is most directly tied to mesothelioma.
Malignant mesothelioma is cancer that develops in the mesothelium, the lining that lubricates organs in the chest and abdominal cavity. However, mesothelioma takes anywhere from 20 to 50 years to surface. While a mesothelioma diagnosis is still considered rare, roughly one-third of them each year are veterans due to the heavy use of asbestos in the Army.
Asbestos Use in the Army
As the Army expanded during war-time, so did their construction efforts. More bases, vehicles, and machines meant that the U.S. needed an inexpensive and reliable solution to keep up with the growing demand. There was already a rapidly-growing market for asbestos, and the discovery of new asbestos deposits across Canada, Russia, and China meant that the military could take full advantage as well.
At the time, asbestos was prized as a miracle. It could be used in nearly every application where the military needed a heat-resistant material. Textiles, metal plating, concrete, pipes, and even floor tiles were made with asbestos to improve upon them. However, this dropped off for most manufacturers in the 1980s after a definitive connection between asbestos and cancer was drawn. The Army even went through and attempted to remove asbestos where possible. However, it is impossible to completely remove something so prevalent.
Where Were Army Veterans Exposed to Asbestos?
Aside from potential exposure on bases and in Army vehicles, certain soldiers were at greater risk of being exposed to asbestos during their service. If you worked in any of the following jobs, you may have been exposed and should be tested for lung-related diseases:
- Boiler rooms
While there were certain jobs in the Army that made individuals more likely to suffer from regular asbestos exposure, any soldier who was around or worked with certain products could also be in danger of developing mesothelioma. These products include:
- Flooring and tile
- Cement sheets
- Corrugated steel sheets
- Clutch and brakes in vehicles
If you are an Army veteran and have worked as or around any of these jobs or products, it is possible that you are at risk for developing mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease. Seek more information from a physician and speak about your concerns.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Next Steps for Army Veterans Diagnosed with Mesothelioma
Any veteran diagnosed with mesothelioma may be subject to compensation through the VA for costs of treatment or loss of income.
Applying for Veterans Benefits
Any individual who was exposed to asbestos during their service could qualify for disability benefits from the VA. These benefits can cover health care or compensation from loss of income. To file a claim, veterans will need their medical records stating their illness, their service records that list their job or specialty, and a doctor’s confirmation of a connection between the veteran’s service and illness.
Filing a Legal Claim
In cases where VA benefits are not enough or are unable to be applied, veterans can still file a legal claim. This claim would not include the military and only be held against manufacturers of asbestos-containing products.
There are many factors when it comes to cases like these. Choosing the right kind of lawsuit to file will make a huge difference and will be dependent on the factors of each individual. If you are interested in filing a case but don’t know where to start, reach out through our free consultation form. A mesothelioma specialist will be able to assess your case and help you with your next steps.