Military veterans comprise the largest occupational group to be impacted by asbestos toxicity and its related medical conditions-including a fatal form of cancer known as mesothelioma.
The following six-part series is dedicated to them.
A highly hazardous carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent-asbestos was used in countless construction projects of every U.S. Military branch, with a particularly high incidence of usage within the U.S. Navy.
Decades after asbestos-containing materials were banned by the military across the board, thousands of vets have been diagnosed with a range of exposure-linked illnesses, incurring millions of dollars in medical costs and an immeasurable amount of pain and grief for both the service men and women affected and the military families forced to endure the tragedy along with them.
In PART ONE, we’ll give you an overview of the connection between veterans and the most heartbreaking of the asbestos-associated diseases-mesothelioma. We’ll explore how exposure to asbestos became an occupational health crisis for the U.S. Military, as well as the reasons why so many are only encountering the consequences of that exposure now.
For U.S. Military veterans, mesothelioma represents a very real and very frightening danger-one that wasn’t encountered in the crossfire of combat but right here on American soil. An average of a thousand vets a year are diagnosed, making up about a third of the total number of mesothelioma victims each year. The vast majority of those individuals are former members of the navy; but service men and women from other branches-including the army, air force and coast guard-are also included.
Military Use of Asbestos
Unbeknownst to millions of veterans, mesothelioma was hazard of the trade. Its primary cause is asbestos exposure, which was a tragically common occupational danger for members of the military that served between the 1930s and 1970s. During that period, a high demand for the construction of new battleships, tanks, barracks and other structures compelled military officials to make heavy use of asbestos building materials-popular at the time for their impressive durability and natural resistance to heat and fire, as well as for their abundance and affordability.
The Mechanics of Exposure
For million of veterans, mesothelioma is a potential risk resulting from frequent close contact with asbestos-containing materials. But the good news is that most of those individuals will never develop the disease. For one thing, only a portion of those exposed end up becoming ill-regardless of the rate and degree of exposure.
Additionally, contact with asbestos-made material is not necessarily dangerous unless the material has been damaged or otherwise disturbed, causing the object to break apart or disintegrate and release thousands of tiny fibers into the air. When this occurs, those crystal-like particles can be inhaled or ingested by those nearby-ultimately becoming lodged in the delicate mesothelial tissue surrounding some of the body’s most vital internal organs. After years of friction causes significant enough damage, scars and then tumors can form. When those masses produce cancer cells, the resulting diagnosis is malignant mesothelioma.