The aftermath of asbestos usage in the United States has left an often tragic and even devastating path of destruction for exposure victims. For close to 100 years, between the late 1800s and mid- to late-1900s, millions of people were unknowingly exposed to a toxic and potentially fatal material. Many were exposed at work, while others came into contact with asbestos in their own homes-either from building components used during construction or through a process called secondary exposure.
Life after asbestos goes on with no detectable consequences for many people. But for the small and unfortunate portion that develops an asbestos-linked illness-such as asbestosis, mesothelioma or other forms of cancer-life is never the same again. All of these chronic and pervasive conditions cause significant physical and emotional distress for the victim-and in the case of mesothelioma cancers, death.
There is much information available about asbestos, its consequences and options for legal recourses. The objective of this months’ blogs is to offer victims of asbestos an easy and straightforward guide that is designed to cover a myriad of topics-from veteran exposure and cutting-edge treatment options to choosing a legal representative and taking your personal injury case to court.
PART X: VETERANS AND MESOTHELIOMA
Each year, for hundreds of United States Military veterans, mesothelioma is a very serious occupational illness resultant from time served decades earlier. Military victims are often unaware that they fall into the highest risk category for developing an asbestos-related medical condition until they receive a diagnosis. It is often only then that they become informed about heavy asbestos usage by the military during the middle-part of the 20th century.
Shocking Statistics about Veterans Mesothelioma
According to current census data, military veterans make up about 8 percent of the total population. Yet of the total number of mesothelioma victims diagnosed with the disease annually, 30 percent are vets. Clearly, that ratio is very skewed. But, why?
As we now are aware, military personnel that served between the 1930s and 1970 had a significantly higher rate of asbestos exposure than did most other occupational groups within that same time period. This was especially true for those serving in the navy branch. Asbestos on navy ships was not only rampant during the years of peak usage but also confined in small and enclosed areas-making exposure more concentrated and, in turn, much more dangerous. (We will explore this relationship more closely in Part XI.)
Identifying Veterans at Risk
The most important identifier for high-risk groups of military veterans is the year(s) during which they served. Every branch of the U.S. military used thousands of asbestos-containing building materials and mechanical components-to construct tanks, jets, ships, barracks and more-during the combat-heavy years of the two World Wars and all the way through to 1970, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began placing severe restrictions on asbestos use in the manufacturing of consumer goods.
Serving any time before 1970 raises veterans’ mesothelioma risk significantly, though it’s important to be aware that military asbestos exposure likely continued at a lower rate-via older tanks, ships, buildings, etc.-throughout the 1980s as well. All veterans with any possible past exposure should undergo regular medical screenings and always inform the performing physician of their military history and any other potential mesothelioma risk factors.