If you’re a veteran of the U.S. Navy, and mesothelioma has changed your life and the lives of your loved ones, you are certainly not alone. Of all the many thousands of individuals in the United States who have been diagnosed with this incurable and particularly brutal type of cancer, a staggering thirty percent have been veterans of the military – with the majority hailing from the navy branch, specifically.
It is understandably difficult for many victims and their families to accept that the noble act of serving their country and protecting their fellow countrymen has resulted in the development of a terminal illness. For the brave men and women who find themselves in this position—struggling to find acceptance—it may help to understand just how the navy and mesothelioma came to be so intimately linked.
Asbestos: Modern Miracle or Silent Killer?
Asbestos is an all-natural substance mined from dirt and rocks that was widely used for many decades, across the U.S. and around the world. Its strength and flexibility of usage made it an ideal ingredient for a range of products but none in more prevalence than building materials—including roofing shingles, insulation, ceiling tiles, cement and much more. Mechanical parts—for ships, vehicles and planes—were also commonly made from asbestos.
By the mid-1900s, it had become clear within the medical community that several serious illnesses were occurring in rapid succession with the steep increase in asbestos usage. Perhaps the most concerning of these was malignant mesothelioma, a very rare form of cancer that saw a sudden and distinct rise in occurrences during the decades following the asbestos manufacturing trend.
Ships of the U.S. Navy: Mesothelioma Breeding Grounds
Understanding the omnipresence of asbestos amongst navy ships and shipyards requires an understanding of asbestos’ most coveted quality: the ability to resist extreme heat and flames. This made asbestos an ideal choice for military structures, as materials made from the unique mineral were able to withstand significant enemy fire and attack. As such, it became the basis for ships’ walls, doors, instruments and much more.
As asbestos structures aged, they slowly weakened; when some kind of a disturbance caused those materials to break, tiny but deadly fragments entered the breathing space of anyone in the immediate area. It was by swallowing or breathing in these particles that the stage for mesothelioma was set. Over time, they would cause significant damage to the linings of one or more protective sheaths that cover the lungs, heart, stomach or testicles—all unbeknownst to the victim. It is generally only decades later that tumors form in the scar tissue left by the asbestos fibers, resulting in a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Unfortunately, because of how common shipyard asbestos was, veterans of the navy with mesothelioma may have difficulty tracing back the site and source of their exposure. An experienced personal injury attorney that specializes in asbestos-related lawsuits will be the best person to assist with this (sometimes arduous) task.