Asbestos was used in Army vehicles, buildings, barracks, and even helmets and uniforms.
The history of asbestos use dates back over 4,500 years when it was added to clay pots and pans, napkins, clothing and art. In the 20th century, its adhesive and heat resistant properties, ˜durability and reliability, made asbestos a go-to additive in a variety of industries.
It was used in automotive components such as brakes, valves, and gaskets, protective garments such as gloves, fire blankets, and aprons, and construction materials such as sheetrock, cement, bricks, and floor tiles. The “miracle mineral” was also used in art supplies including yarn, paint, and tape, in jewelry and in makeup.
The United States has not banned all asbestos products.
Asbestos cement makes up about 70% of asbestos products still used.
Today, over 50 countries have issued a complete ban of asbestos, but the United States is not one of them. Currently, there is no known level of exposure considered to be “safe,” but, rather, the government decides the level of risk based on the possibility of particles becoming airborne or being ingested in food or water. The fibrous material lingers in the multitude of products it was added to before it became a known carcinogen, and it is still added to asphalt shingles, cement, and is prevalent in the water supplies of those residing near mines. Asbestos is even still present in items used by the United States Army.
History of the United States Army
The U.S. Army freed the colonies during the Revolutionary War, and it has been fighting since.
U.S. Army during the Colonial Era
In June of 1775, all thirteen American colonies joined together against the forces of Britain, forming the brand new Continental Army. George Washington was elected as the first Commander-in-Chief without any opposition, and he led the Army to victory in the Revolutionary War.
U.S. Army during the War of 1812
By the year 1812, The United States continued to face distress under British-enforced trade restrictions and contrasting disputes left unsettled from the war. This caused the United States to once again declare war against Britain, initiating the War of 1812. Battling against over 5,000 members of the British militia, the shelling of the Baltimore Harbor later became the inspiration for ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’
U.S. Army during The Civil War
In the year 1860, the United States Army faced one of the most significant wars in U.S. history. After a long-established friction between northern and southern states regarding the right to own slaves, almost 1-in-3 Army officers resigned to join the Confederacy. Nearly three million soldiers served in the five years of the Civil War, and in the aftermath, the Army’s regrowth was relatively slow.
U.S. Army during World War II
The World War II (WWII) era also saw a number of significant landmarks for the United States Army. The Office of Strategic Services was created, which would later be known as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). WWII marked the introduction of the G.I. Bill, and today, there are many roles in Army, from engineers to doctors, nurses, dentists and more. The U.S. Army contains members of both active duty and the Army Reserves, which combined includes over 700,000 soldiers.
The Asbestos Revolution
The Industrial Revolution led to an increase in the use of asbestos in North America, and especially in the U.S. It was found everywhere, in homes to schools, places of work and industrial buildings. In fact, in the year 1973 raw asbestos consumption reached peak use in the US at 803,000 tons.
In the year 1973 raw asbestos consumption reached peak use in the US at 803,000 tons.
It was also in the ‘70s that the health risks of asbestos use were finally becoming public knowledge.
However, asbestos would continue to be prevalent in many industries for another decade.
The earliest reported case of asbestosis in the U.S. was believed to be in 1933 when an American insulation worker fell ill. (There were earlier cases reported in other areas of the world.) He was first misdiagnosed with tuberculosis, a common misdiagnosis for asbestos-related illness at the time.
Journal of the American Medical Association recognizes asbestos as an occupational carcinogen.
It wasn’t until 1949 that asbestosis was recognized as a cause of occupational and environmental cancer by the Journal of the American Medical Association. Despite this recognition, use didn’t die down for years.
During the height of asbestos use, many asbestos products and materials were used by the U.S. Army.
- Millions of soldiers were exposed to asbestos products and materials while in service.
- Many vets are only now showing symptoms of their asbestos-related illnesses.
Between the 1930s and the early 1980s, the Army depended on asbestos to build their bases, unknowingly subjecting soldiers to the carcinogen. Like most consumers at the time, those in the Army were largely unaware of the hazards of asbestos use – and manufacturers concealed the health risks involved for years.
At the time, it was believed to be a “miracle mineral” because of its remarkable heat and fire-resistant properties, and its extreme durability. So, those privy to the potential health hazards often looked the other way, believing that the pros of use outweighed the cons.
Asbestos was present in Army barracks and bases, including in:
Those who lived on base before the mid-1980s likely came in direct contact with the asbestos products on a regular basis.
The largest bases that contained asbestos were:
- Fort Bragg, border of Tennessee and Kentucky
- Fort Hood, Texas
- Fort Benning, Georgia.
- Fort Lewis, Washington.
- Fort Knox, Kentucky.
There are dozens of additional Army bases across the country that were exposed.
Asbestos exposure while serving in the army overseas:
There were also military bases and shipyards overseas where army service members were exposed to asbestos:
- South Korea
Asbestos in Vehicles and Weapons
Like most industrial buildings, gun manufacturing facilities contain significant amounts of asbestos.
Again, for decades, it was preferred for its heat resistance as well as its resistance to chemical corrosion and electricity and the ease at which it can be combined with other materials to strengthen them. For this reason, a multitude of manufactured goods contain asbestos, including guns and ammunition.
Shotgun shell wadding uses a combination of asbestos and wood fibers to prevent explosions while the shells are still present inside the guns. During World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, the United States Army issued cloth mitts to their machine gun handlers. The mitts were also used by other Army personnel, including those who handled extremely hot mortars or other artillery pieces.
Asbestos mittens were used with artillery and other mechanics with high temperatures.
According to one U.S. Army field manual:
“On prolonged firing, the barrel of the M-60 machine gun becomes quite hot and for continued use must be replaced by the usual spare. To enable rapid replacement without delay, heat-insulating protective hand coverings, such as asbestos mittens, now are employed for removal of a hot barrel.”
Vehicle and Mechanical Parts
It isn’t just weapons and protective gear that expose those serving in the U.S. Army to asbestos. Even vehicle parts used in combat contain the deadly fiber. Asbestos has a long history of being used in these parts because it can withstand friction and high temperatures. This is true particularly for cars manufactured before the 1990s. It wasn’t until 1987 that vehicle manufacturers stopped using asbestos in brakes. It is even used today on replacement brakes, gaskets, and clutches.
On older model vehicles, including those in the military, it’s not uncommon for asbestos to be present. It may reside in all of the following:
- Brake pads
- Brake linings
- Clutch discs
- Transmission parts
- Valve rings
- Hood linings
- Insulation material
- Plastic body work
Fireproofing Ships with Asbestos During WWII
Ships and other military vessels also contain asbestos.
The mineral has low electrical conductivity, is insoluble in water, and is resistant to heat. These features cause many branches of the United States military, including the Army, Navy, and Air Force, to use asbestos at an unprecedented scale. Asbestos was also used on airplanes made before the year 1980.
U.S. Army Servicemembers who traveled on ships before the 1980s may have been exposed to asbestos on the vessel.
- Boiler rooms, sometimes called ‘fire rooms,’ on military ships during World War II were known to have asbestos in their pipes and in the pipe insulation. The equipment inside, including the boilers and turbines, also required asbestos insulation to power the ships.
- The high-powered industrial pumps that resided in the ‘pump rooms’ used asbestos in gaskets and valves to properly function. Engine rooms on these ships, which were responsible for sending steam to power the vessels, required the equipment to be covered in asbestos insulation.
- The engine rooms and boiler rooms were often very small and poorly ventilated, increasing the risk of exposure. And the sailors weren’t even safe in their own bunkrooms from asbestos exposure.
- The bulkheads in the cabins which were meant to ensure they were safe in their sleeping quarters also contained asbestos.
- The body of these ships, called the ‘hulls,’ were watertight and fireproof due to asbestos.
Additional areas of the ships that may have contained asbestos include:
- Navigation rooms.
- Mess halls (where the sailors had their meals).
- Galleys or kitchens.
- Electrical wiring on the vessel.
Options for Veterans
The people most at risk for asbestos exposure in Army barracks include, but are not limited to:
- Artillery personnel
- Construction workers
- Maintenance crew staff
- Heavy and light equipment mechanics
- Demolition and renovation workers
- Boilermakers and furnace tenders
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Secondary Asbestos exposure by the families of Marine Veterans.
Like second-hand smoke, even loved ones and family members of Army soldiers may suffer from asbestos-related conditions from second-hand exposure. The fibers can be carried home on clothing, on firearms and on other essentials used by service members.
Veterans with asbestos-related health problems can seek compensation.
Veterans who suffer or have suffered from asbestosis, mesothelioma, or lung cancer are presumptively entitled to disability benefits.
Other health conditions on the presumptive list include:
- Bronchus cancer
- Pharynx cancer
- Larynx cancer
- Pleural plaques
- Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract Cancer
- Urogenital cancer
- Interstitial pulmonary fibrosis
- Pleural effusion
Shortly after the discontinuation of ships constructed with asbestos, the United States Navy formed the Asbestos Medical Surveillance Program (AMSP). Anyone who has been exposed to a Navy ship containing asbestos, even civilians, can apply for AMSP treatment.
“The overall evidence suggests there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.”
Source: National Cancer Institute (NIH)
Asbestos has a long latency. After exposure, symptoms take 20-50 years to appear.
Asbestos-related health issues can take 20-50 years to manifest, and by then treatment options may be less beneficial. In order to ensure the most successful treatment possible, anyone exposed should go on record with the AMSP to catch diseases before they progress.
Veterans are eligible for Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits after a mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diagnosis from the Department of Veteran Affairs. They may also access health care through the VA and secure benefits for loved ones. Daily expenses, such as groceries, can even be covered.
Veterans with mesothelioma often receive over $3,000 in benefits per month. According to the VA, to receive benefits, veterans must be diagnosed with an asbestos-related condition, prove that their ailment is related to their Army service, and not have a history of being dishonorably discharged.
For further compensation, veterans can file legal claims or asbestos trust fund claims. Asbestos manufacturing companies are legally obligated to financially compensate for the damage they’ve caused. If bankruptcy is a concern, asbestos trust fund claims ensure that veterans will receive compensation from bankrupt businesses.
Compensation for U.S. Army Veterans from New Burn-Pit Legislation
On March 3, 2022, the United States House of Representatives passed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. With the new legislation in place, military veterans are eligible for compensation and free treatment of health conditions that developed as a result of their time in the service.
But even with the ‘Burn Pit’ legislation that recently passed, including VA benefits for exposure to toxic substances from the pits (including asbestos), the price of medical care has skyrocketed. Fortunately, many veterans qualify for other claims including asbestos bankruptcy trusts which usually can provide compensation without the need to file a lawsuit.
In the United States Army, there are seven core principles that those in the service follow: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. The servitude which these soldiers offer to their country is unmatched.
Asbestos-related illnesses may only appear years after Army service.
However, many return home with various conditions and disabilities, including asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma (which typically develop years after they make it home). American veterans make up for 33% of all mesothelioma cases due to the level at which soldiers were regularly exposed to asbestos, and the majority of asbestos-related diseases can often be debilitating, disabling and even life-ending.
While no amount of financial compensation will reverse the suffering which these conditions cause, there are options for soldiers and veterans to hold responsible parties accountable, and treatment options through government programs are expanding.
AsbestosClaims.law is your comprehensive resource for all things asbestos, including info on health and compensation for Air Force Veterans and other former Service Members. We hope this is helpful and are grateful to all who have given of themselves to defend us all.
Many veterans, industrial workers and their families were exposed to asbestos and developed asbestos-related illnesses, including cancers like mesothelioma. Treatment of asbestos-related illnesses can be ongoing and very expensive, and in addition to workers’ compensation and other legal claims, many victims qualify for compensation from asbestos-bankruptcy trusts, usually without a lawsuit.
If you have any additional questions or concerns related to asbestos, check out our website and YouTube page for videos, infographics and answers to your questions about asbestos, including health and safety, asbestos testing, removing asbestos from your home and building, and legal information about compensation for asbestos injuries.
And if you believe that you were exposed to asbestos, or have been diagnosed with an asbestos illness, you could be entitled to significant compensation—money you could use to cover the costs of asbestos removal services, pay for medical treatment, and preemptively protect your physical well-being.
All without filing a lawsuit.
If you’d like help with filing a claim, please get in touch by email at [email protected], us or call or text us at [email protected], or call or text us at (833) 4-ASBESTOS (427-2378) or (206) 455-9190. We’ll listen to your story and explain your options. And we never charge for anything unless you receive money in your pocket.
National Cancer Institute (NIH), Asbestos Fact Sheet.
A. Sotolongo , M. Falvo , S. Santos , I. Johnson , M. Arjomandi , S. Hines , S. Krefft , and J. Osterholzer. “Military Burn Pits.” American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 201(7), pp. P13–P14.
Kara Franke & Dennis Paustenbach (2011) Government and Navy knowledge regarding health hazards of asbestos: A state of the science evaluation (1900 to 1970), Inhalation Toxicology, 23:sup3, 1-20, DOI:10.3109/08958378.2011.643417
Lemen RA, Landrigan PJ. Sailors and the Risk of Asbestos-Related Cancer. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Aug 9;18(16):8417. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18168417. Erratum in: Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Nov 02;18(21): PMID: 34444165; PMCID: PMC8394725.