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Veterans Have Also Been Heavily Exposed to Asbestos. Get Tested!

Posted in: Prognosis February 14, 2017 By Stan Gottfredson Read by 1072 Users

In addition to having been extensively employed in the construction of public buildings and houses, asbestos has also been involved in all branches of the U.S. military between 1935 and 1975. The majority of the 22 million veterans who are currently living in the U.S. have been exposed to tremendous amounts of asbestos while serving in the military. As a consequence, veterans represent the largest group of people suffering from mesothelioma, accounting for 30% of all diagnosed cases. Although the carcinogenic minerals were present within all military branches in various forms and applications, veterans who served in the U.S. Navy have the highest risk of developing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis.

How Was Asbestos Used in the U.S. Military?

The numerous convenient properties of asbestos – durability, fire resistance, inability to conduct electricity – have been widely exploited by the military and the toxic minerals soon became the material of choice for fireproofing vehicles and buildings. It was also the low price and accessibility which significantly contributed to asbestos’s popularity during the last century. Thus, asbestos could be found in insulation, caulking, plumbing systems, flooring, cement foundation and roofing, as well as in various components of automobiles, tanks, and aircraft, including clutch plates, brake pads and gaskets. Nevertheless, the U.S Navy entailed the highest risk of exposure, as the carcinogen was present in over 300 different products involved in shipbuilding.

Due to its remarkable heat resistance, asbestos was used to insulate engine rooms, mess halls, boiler rooms, weapons and ammunition storage rooms, sleeping quarters and navigation rooms. Moreover, gaskets, compressors, pipes, valves, motors, pumps, and cables were also protected with solid layers of asbestos, since such products are very prone to overheating. Even though virtually everyone who served on an asbestos-laden ship has been exposed to a greater or lesser extent, veterans who performed the following jobs within the U.S. Navy have the highest risk of developing an asbestos-related disease in the future, as they were in regular contact with considerably larger concentrations of asbestos:

  • fire control technician
  • machinery repairman
  • metalsmith
  • pipefitter
  • boiler tender
  • electrician’s mate
  • damage controlman
  • seabee
  • welder
  • boatswain’s mate
  • hull maintenance technician
  • gunner’s mate

How Did Exposure to Asbestos Occur in the Military?

Asbestos becomes dangerous only when it is airborne. Fibers released following the disturbance or damaging of asbestos-containing products can easily be inhaled or ingested by people who are in the proximity of a contaminated area. The human body is not naturally designed to eliminate asbestos fibers and thereby, microscopic particles of minerals will gradually accumulate in various regions of the body, such as the lungs or abdominal cavity, when a person is exposed to asbestos over an extended period of time.

However, as asbestos-related diseases imply a long latency period of several decades, the majority of veterans who had been heavily exposed to the carcinogen while serving in the military have only recently been diagnosed with mesothelioma (pleural, peritoneal, pericardial), lung cancer or asbestosis. Because the inflammation caused by fibers of asbestos progresses gradually into a more severe condition, it generally takes 10 to 50 years for a form of cancer to develop.

Veterans, especially those who had served in the military for a long time, were exposed to asbestos in multiple ways due to the astounding number of materials and products these hazardous minerals were involved in. Asbestos was ubiquitous in the U.S. military, from sleeping quarters, barracks and office buildings to aircraft, tanks, and ships. Although no level of asbestos is truly safe, studies suggest that the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease increases with the dose and duration of exposure. Therefore, people who were in direct contact with asbestos, such as construction, carpentry, and shipyard workers, as well as veterans who spent a considerable time on the U.S. Navy’s vessels are significantly more prone to being diagnosed with a severe condition in the near future.

If You Served in the U.S. Military between 1935 and 1975, We Strongly Encourage You to Get Tested for Asbestos

Early diagnosis is crucial and could save your life. Cancer caused by asbestos exposure is rarely accompanied by clear symptoms in its incipient phases and unfortunately, most people find out they are suffering from mesothelioma or lung cancer when the disease is very advanced and the number of effective treatments is dramatically limited. Additionally, asbestos-related cancer also entails an aggressive and rapid progress and no time should be spared in attending to the disease. Up to 10% of people who have been heavily exposed to asbestos will be diagnosed with mesothelioma and approximately 10,000 veterans lose their lives annually to this devastating form of cancer.

If you served in the military during the heyday of asbestos, it is recommended to get tested regardless of what job you performed, as the possibility of mineral fibers being present in your lungs is very high. A timely detection of asbestos in your body is essential and your doctor will be able to provide you with the most effective approach to preventing the development of a respiratory disease. Moreover, if mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer has already affected your lungs, an early detection can greatly benefit your prognosis and allow you to undergo a large number of effective and safe treatments which can keep its progress under control or even lead to remission. We strongly encourage you to opt for the medical services of a highly experienced oncologist specialized in diagnosing and treating asbestos diseases who can recommend you the most reliable and accurate screening methods and to get tested as soon as possible.

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