The Vietnam War was fought in an era when the dangers of asbestos were well known, leading many people to believe that Vietnam veterans weren’t exposed to asbestos in the military to the same degree as World War II and Korea veterans were. For many Vietnam vets, that simply isn’t true.
Vietnam Veterans Asbestos Exposure
Veterans were exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos in all of the domestic bases that were used for training prior to overseas assignment. All of the military facilities of that time (and many still today) were built when asbestos products were the standard for insulation. Flooring, ceiling tiles and roofing in military facilities were commonplace.
Asbestos exposure for Vietnam veterans also occurred in many of the aircraft used to shuttle them and virtually all of the Navy vessels used to transport them. The United States Navy used asbestos insulation in every ship that was commissioned from about 1930 through the Vietnam War era. Sailors on those ships were exposed to asbestos in the engine room and among the miles of pipes that were wrapped with asbestos aboard the larger ships. Military regulation of asbestos use wasn’t formalized until the 1980s, too late to protect Vietnam veterans.
Mesothelioma Diagnoses Among Vietnam Veterans
The presence of asbestos among Vietnam veterans is reflected in the fact that veterans who are today being diagnosed with asbestos related diseases aren’t just of WW II and Korean vintage. They range in age from 50 up through the 80s, indicating that Vietnam veterans were exposed to asbestos much like the military men and women who preceded them.
The worst asbestos caused disease is mesothelioma cancer, and thirty percent of all Americans who are diagnosed with it are veterans. It’s a lethal and very aggressive carcinogen; veterans who are diagnosed with it generally face a survival period of less than two years. Part of the reason for that dispiriting reality, however, is the fact that many mesothelioma cases aren’t diagnosed until they are in an advanced stage. Mesothelioma symptoms may not appear for decades after the exposure to asbestos occurred – up to forty years.
Help for Vietnam Veterans
Vietnam veterans who suspect that they may have been exposed to asbestos should consult with a doctor about this issue and get regular checkups including chest X-rays to monitor their health. The VA is cautious about granting disability to any veteran who suffers from mesothelioma, but with asbestos diseases there is also the option of filing liability claims against the asbestos companies. If you are a veteran diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos related disease find an experienced attorney. Thousands of veterans have filed claims for compensation from the asbestos companies and have been successful.