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Military Branch Conditions

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Military Branches
Long after their active duty ends, veterans now face a very different kind of fight. Today, many veterans who served our country from World War II through the Vietnam War are in a battle against potential diseases from asbestos exposure.
Until the late 1970s, the United States military extensively used asbestos-containing products for insulation in the construction of ships and vessels and throughout bases across the country. Although there was credible evidence that the use of asbestos was harmful to individuals, manufacturers chose not to warn the military, who relied on the word of product manufacturers, and continued to use these products daily. The widespread use of these products is now known to have affected every branch of the military with the most significant exposure seen with the sailors of the U.S. Navy.
Asbestos and the Navy
While the threat of asbestos exposure continues to exist in every branch of the military, the servicemen of the Navy continue to face the most significant risk of mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases. Since the early 1930s, the Navy has used significant amounts of asbestos-containing products throughout shipyards and in the production of surface ships and submarines. With the durability of asbestos and its ability to withstand extreme conditions, including heat and fire, asbestos became a powerful material for insulating equipment and important compartments. It is estimated that the Navy unwittingly applied the carcinogen to at least 300 items and products during the construction of countless warships and submarines, as well as used it during maintenance and repair work at shipyards during the twentieth century.
Although every sailor who lived and worked aboard the ships was susceptible to inhaling asbestos, those who worked directly with maintaining and repairing equipment aboard and ashore are known to be more apt to develop significant health problems and diseases. Countless pipefitters, machinists, mechanics, electricians, welders and boiler men were among the servicemen who unknowingly subjected themselves to potentially fatal situations during their duty.
Shipyard workers were also exposed to deadly asbestos particles while performing demolition, renovation and maintenance work on warships and in buildings. Along with the sailors stationed aboard these asbestos-laden ships, they were frequently showered in asbestos dust as a result of their daily tasks. Unbeknownst to these individuals, when disrupted, asbestos is released in its most dangerous form.
No sailor was out of harms reach, as even naval personnel who worked below deck, and did not have direct contact with asbestos-related products, were at risk of significant exposure. Whether in boiler rooms, engine rooms, galleys or machine shops, it was rare to find a place aboard where asbestos was not used.
While every branch of the military has been adversely affected by the use of asbestos, statistics show the Navy was certainly impacted the most. Although there are no formal statistics, cancer researchers have found through studies done that an extremely troubling number of mesothelioma patients were sailors or shipyard workers at one time. Their studies are reinforced by the fact that today, Navy veterans account for 16 percent of all reported mesothelioma cases.
Other Branches of the Military
While the Navy was hit hardest by the hazardous of asbestos, other branches of the military were not spared from the ramifications of its presence either. According to cancer researchers, more than 30 percent of Americans plagued with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos in some form of military service.
Within each branch, a variety of asbestos hazards continue to exist and manifest in different ways. Within the Air Force, a number of government studies conducted found the presence of the deadly material in base housing. From floor tile to pipe wrapping to vinyl flooring, to ceiling material and wall insulation, asbestos existed in on-base housing. Other sources have noted that since World War II, asbestos has been used in aircraft. Having been used in different parts of aircraft for decades, the inexpensive nature of asbestos encouraged its use in the construction of the brakes, cockpit heater systems, heat shields for the engines, gaskets and torque valves. Whether it was repairing a wing or installing electrical wire insulation, many Air Force veterans who served as crewmen or mechanics were exposed to asbestos and entirely unaware of its toxic effects.
The Army also faced similar problems to the Air Force until the Government placed a ban on unbridled commercial use of most asbestos in the late 1970s. Until then, the Army had a known presence of asbestos in their barracks and in much of its military construction. As an inexpensive, fireproof and heat resistant substance, asbestos was a common choice for insulation and as a building material. Even today, some asbestos-containing products still remain in on-base housing and in soldier's barracks.
With the close affiliation between the Marine Corps and the Navy, many Marine aviators and flight crews were exposed to the same deadly fibers as the sailors of the Navy. Many Marines were likely exposed to asbestos while embarked aboard Navy ships or in port during a ship or aircraft maintenance.
Like their Navy counterparts, Coast Guardsmen were especially susceptible to asbestos exposure as a result of its use in ships and vessels they inhabited during their service. A Coast Guardsman's risk was directly related to his occupation and length of exposure to asbestos fibers. Nearly all Guardsmen faced exposure, yet some jobs fared worse than others. Risk was often heightened for those who were pipefitters, boiler men, machinists, electricians, plumbers, electricians, insulators and general shipyard workers.
In the post-World War II years, each military branch began to steadily decrease the usage of asbestos containing materials. Although no new vessels are now constructed with asbestos insulation, the threat still looms for the men and women who worked with asbestos decades ago.
Asbestos on the Home front
Unfortunately, countless individuals have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease or lung cancer even when not in direct contact or use. Studies have shown a significant disease rate even among secretaries and other personnel who worked on bases and in shipyard offices.
Similarly, many housewives and children were exposed to asbestos as a result of servicemen and shipyard workers carrying the dangerous fibers home with them. This type of paraoccupational exposure is a direct result of asbestos particles migrating from their initial source and clinging to fabrics, skin, clothing and hair. Once attached, these asbestos particles remained imbedded until they were rinsed off, shaken off or cleaned. In carrying these asbestos fibers home, individuals may have unwittingly exposed their loved ones to near lethal levels of asbestos that they were surrounded by day in and day out.
If you or a loved one has served time in the military and has served in any of the Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) or areas on this site, please seek medical attention as soon as possible if you experience health or respiratory problems, as these may be signs of a more significant issue. To learn more about your legal rights and how to gain the rightful compensation owed to you from the companies that manufactured these poisonous products, contact the Coady Law Firm. Trust in fellow veterans who will stand by your fight.

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