It is a fact that, amongst U.S. veterans that served between the 1930s and 1970s, mesothelioma rates are disturbingly high. In detail, today’s vets make up about 30 percent of all diagnosed cases. That’s as many as 1000 veterans diagnosed with a rare, aggressive and terminal cancer each year. Sadly, many of these victims survived combat – sometimes through multiple deployments – only to be fatally wounded back on domestic soil by toxic asbestos exposure.
No military branch was more adversely and widely affected than the U.S. Navy – in fact, veterans of the Navy alone make up for about a third of mesothelioma victims diagnosed annually nationwide.
Occupational Exposure in the Military, PART III:
In Part III of our series, we’ll examine the tragic and shockingly prevalent use of asbestos by the U.S. Navy – including where and why it was found on military ships and who is ultimately held responsible in the legal repercussions of today.
In the years between the World Wars, the Korean Conflictand U.S. involvement in Vietnam, shipyard asbestos was an unavoidable hazard for veterans of the U.S. Navy. Though unaware at the time, navy shipman and shipyard workers came into daily contact with toxic asbestos products that were used almost exclusively in the construction of vessels, bases and other military structures through the 1970s (when they were officially banned).
During that aforementioned time period, in any given navy shipyard, asbestos products could be found in large quantities all over virtually every ship. This was true of shipyards across the United States. Asbestos was in the ceiling tiles, the poured cement used to form concrete structures, insulation within walls and around pipes – even in the flooring used for sleeping quarters, where shipman rested after a long day’s battle.
The popularity of asbestos was at its peak during those years of navy usage – particularly within the construction industry. Because asbestos fibers are naturally able to withstand tremendous heat and even fire, the strength and durability of asbestos-made products made them logical choices for the building of structures – including homes, schools and government office buildings. That same logic extended to the construction of military structures and ships, thus explaining the prevalence of shipyard asbestos amongst the navy.
It’s important to note, however, that in today’s highly active world of asbestos legal action, the U.S. military is not held liable or named as a defendant in any asbestos-injury lawsuit.
At the time, the dangers of shipyard asbestos were withheld from the public at large by the manufacturers of asbestos products. It is because of this intentional suppression of vital health and safety information that those companies (and others who profited off of asbestos sale in the U.S.) have been held liable by the civil court system for the injury and illness of thousands upon thousands of unknowing asbestos exposure victims. Such companies are the defendants named in lawsuits filed by injured veterans and others who have been harmed by exposure to asbestos.