It has been clearly established that during World War II tens of thousands of veterans were exposed to asbestos in potentially harmful situations. The highest profile example has been Navy veterans who developed mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases in disproportionate numbers after the war. Mesothelioma has a very long latency period – forty years or more – so the extent of the problem for Navy vets and veterans in general did not become evident until the war had been over for many years.
Members of other service branches shared the risk of asbestos exposure, as did civilians working in shipyards to built or repair Navy vessels and workers who were turning out war materiel in thousands of factories. Asbestos remained a popular additive for thousands of industrial products through the 1970s. Veterans from Korea and Vietnam who were trained in World War II era bases were exposed to asbestos flooring, roofing, insulation, and cement. Asbestos becomes hazardous when a product is worn or deteriorates enough to release asbestos fibers into the air. Worn flooring, old insulation, and deteriorating asbestos shingles are a few examples of what veterans from all branches encountered during basic training.
Asbestos in the Military Today
The Veterans Administration has finally embraced the notion that servicemen and women may have suffered asbestos exposure on active duty. The VA’s position on asbestos related diseases is that if you can prove that asbestos exposure occurred during active duty and that was the only occurrence of asbestos exposure which may have caused your disease, then you are eligible for VA treatment for the illness.
They are highly cognizant of the possibilities for asbestos exposure today, as are the branches of service. The VA has a list of military work assignments that may have led to asbestos exposure on their website. The United States Army maintains an industrial hygiene program that includes asbestos management. The Army Corps of Engineers has an inspection program for army facilities that still have asbestos in on-site structures or installations.
The Navy has been active in removing asbestos from vintage ships still in operation; the USS Enterprise has an asbestos abatement team on board at all times. The Coast Guard has an Asbestos Exposure Control Manual that lays out guidelines for action applicable to dozens of workplace scenarios, principally on shore. Coast Guard asbestos abatement personnel are required to file reports with the EPA. The Marine Corps has an Asbestos Medical Surveillance Program operated by the Navy & Marine Corps Public Health Center.
Asbestos Legal Rights
If you or a family member served in the military and has developed an asbestos-related disease, you may be eligible for compensation.
Coast Guard Asbestos Manual, U.S. Coast Guard
Army Asbestos Program, U.S. Army Public Health Command
Navy & Marine Asbestos Surveillance Program, U.S. Navy & Marine Public Health Center