World War II Veterans and Mesothelioma

Here are a few salient facts about asbestos and the diseases it causes:

  • Asbestos exposure can lead to three irreversible, incurable and usually fatal diseases: mesothelioma, asbestosis, and asbestos lung cancer.
  • The harm that asbestos has done to veterans and American workers has led to over 800,000 lawsuits against asbestos companies.
  • Asbestos related diseases usually don’t develop until twenty to fifty years after the asbestos exposure has occurred.
  • Thirty percent of all people diagnosed with mesothelioma in the United States are veterans.

Asbestos exposure has damaged or destroyed the health of tens of thousands of U.S. citizens and a tremendous number of them suffered the asbestos exposure that led to medical problems while on active duty in one of the five military branches, or in the Merchant Marine. The largest number of these exposures took place during World War II when there were sixteen million men and women on active duty; but military exposure to asbestos continued on for decades thereafter.

Navy Veterans Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos exposure results in disease when an asbestos product that is deteriorating or damaged gives off microscopic asbestos fibers which are unknowingly inhaled or ingested, and which lodge inside the body. By far the veterans most at risk for development of mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases have been Navy veterans and the workmen that repaired and refitted Navy ships while in port. Boilers, engine rooms, pumps, valves, and the miles of pipe found on a Navy vessel were all fitted with asbestos insulation or asbestos gaskets or asbestos seals for bearings and petcocks.

Navy ships had asbestos materials lining bulkheads, ships’ doors and compartments for purposes of fire suppression. Much of this material was worn through constant contact or weathering and began to fray, giving off the lethal fibers.

Army Veterans Asbestos Exposure

The hundreds of buildings thrown up after the United States declared war on December 8, 1941 had a wealth of asbestos related products. Construction materials containing asbestos included shingles, roofing tar, floor tiles, linoleum flooring, wall insulation, heating system insulation, ceiling tiles, wall and flooring adhesives, joint compound, siding, and cement. Where these materials saw hard use they began to deteriorate and give off asbestos fibers.

Other sources of asbestos exposure for army troops included work in the motor pool, installing new brakes, clutches, gaskets, and bearing packing – all of which had asbestos components. Armored vehicles and some types of artillery incorporated asbestos insulation. There were hundreds of asbestos products that a GI might come across, in the barracks, mess halls, training rooms, shops, and on military transports.

Air Corps Veterans Asbestos Exposure

Like all World War II veterans, the Army Air Corps members encountered asbestos in the facilities where they were trained. Air Corps mechanics replaced asbestos brakes in the fighters, bombers and training planes used throughout the war. Engines that needed refitting had asbestos gaskets, fittings, seals and wiring insulation that could be hazardous. And those aircraft that were outfitted with fire retardant materials inevitably were fitted with asbestos sheeting of some kind.

Coast Guard and Merchant Marine Asbestos Exposure

The men and few women who served on Coast Guard cutters and Merchant Marine vessels encountered the same layers of asbestos insulation found on Navy ships of the World War II era. Coast Guard cutters had boilers and engine rooms lined with asbestos insulation; the interior compartments had asbestos fire retardant materials – some of which were sprayed on. Merchant Marine vessels were similar in design with similar insulation and fire suppression products.

The reason that asbestos exposure hasn’t been as high profile an issue for World War II Coast Guard and Merchant Marine veterans is that there were far fewer of them than in the Navy. Also, Merchant Marine sailors weren’t granted World War II veteran status until 1988, despite the fact that a higher percentage of them suffered casualties than any other branch of the service.

World War II Veteran Asbestos Compensation

Most of our World War II veterans are gone today, but the thousands that suffered from asbestos exposure in the military were able to successfully pursue legal action against the asbestos companies that manufacture the products which led to mesothelioma and asbestosis in veterans. If you or a family member is a World War II veteran that developed an asbestos related disease you may be eligible for compensation. Contact our offices today and an attorney will review your case thoroughly, in complete confidence, and at no charge.

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