The men and women who fought in the Korean War shipped out five years after the end of World War II and in many cases, using equipment that was manufactured for the previous war. The Navy and Merchant Marine ships used to transport American troops to Korea, Japan and the other Asian bases were built in the 1940s, which means they were loaded with asbestos insulation, fire retardant and other products. The military vehicles shipped with the infantry were still being manufactured with asbestos products that included brakes, gaskets, fittings, bearing seals, and insulation.
The Army and Marine brigades assembled for transport to Korea trained and were housed in the World War II barracks, shops, and buildings used for the troops that fought World War II. Those structures were also loaded with asbestos products that included flooring, ceiling tiles, roofing material or shingles, siding, insulation, and even cement. Korean vets served in an era when asbestos products were not only legal but highly popular for many, many uses.
Asbestos is a highly fire resistant material that is also fibrous, resilient, and in some forms can be used to weave textiles. Tons of asbestos insulation and fire protection material were used on every Navy and commercial vessel built from about 1930 to 1970, so the sailors on those ships during the Korean conflict suffered the same asbestos exposure that their predecessors had experienced and decades later, began to get sick from it. Men who serviced Army and Marine vehicles, armor and motorized equipment were exposed in similar fashion to fittings, brake shoes, gaskets, and seals manufactured from asbestos.
Mesothelioma and Korean War Veterans
Mesothelioma is the lethal malignant cancer caused by asbestos that develops in the chest or abdomen. The only known cause for this disease is asbestos fibers that are given off by asbestos products and inhaled by unsuspecting workers, soldiers or sailors. Mesothelioma affected Korean veterans forty or fifty years after their exposure to asbestos, because that’s the latency period for this type of cancer. Men and women who served in Korea began to develop asbestosis in the 1980s and mesothelioma in the 1990s, on the average. The median age for a mesothelioma patient is sixty five.
The history of mesothelioma in the United States reflects the amount of risk that our veterans endured with this material: it is estimated that thirty percent of all mesothelioma diagnoses in this country were made on military veterans. There have not been as many from the Korean conflict as from World War II, but that is only because of the relative size of our military commitment for the two wars. The level of mesothelioma risk for Korean veterans was not substantially different than that for World War II veterans.
Benefits for Korean Veterans with Mesothelioma
It took years, but the Veterans Administration finally recognized asbestos related diseases as a disability that is possibly related to military service. Korean veterans who can prove that they were exposed to asbestos during active duty and who have developed an asbestos related disease may be eligible for service-related disability and medical treatment.
Korean veterans can also take legal action against the asbestos product manufacturers, just as hundreds of thousands of other asbestos victims have done. There have been about 800,000 lawsuits filed against asbestos companies by veterans and others who have been sickened by their products. The companies have paid out billions in settlements.
If you are a Korean veteran with an asbestos related disease you may be eligible for compensation. Contact our offices and one of our attorneys will review your case, in complete confidence and at no charge.