Thursday, July 9, 2015

Veterans and Asbestos Exposure

Currently, veterans remain one of the largest groups of people exposed to asbestos in history. In turn, a myriad of veterans have passed away from or are now live with devastating asbestos-related diseases such as malignant mesothelioma.

History of Asbestos Use and the Military

Asbestos use in the military stems back to before World War I, but the 1930s brought about a rapid increase in military asbestos use across all branches. This lasted throughout the late 1970s, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed strict regulations on asbestos use.

During World War II, asbestos use in the military reached its highest peak as barracks, vessels, tanks, planes, and a myriad of other machinery and equipment were being built at excessive rates. Asbestos-containing products were used almost everywhere in all branches of the military.

Some of the common places asbestos was used include:

  • Walls
  • Insulation
  • Boiler rooms
  • Sleeping quarters
  • Naval training facilities
  • Air training facilities
  • Vessel parts and machinery
  • Flooring and flooring tiles
  • Ceilings
  • Packing materials
  • Deck coverings
  • Valves
  • Gaskets
  • Bedding compounds

After World War II, asbestos use began to slow down, but it wasn’t completely phased out until the 1970s. Yet, there are still older vessels, facilities, and equipment that may still contain asbestos. Military vessels, in particular, still put people at risk of asbestos exposure.

Although the military has since began asbestos abatement in vessels, a lot of the asbestos fibers are too brittle. Trying to remove the sheer amount of these fibers, especially if proper abatement and safety procedures aren’t followed, puts people in danger. Consequently, there is still an abundance of asbestos on older military vessels.

The Dangers of Asbestos

Asbestos was chosen by the military as well as thousands of businesses due to its ease of use, affordability, and resistance to heat and fire. However, although asbestos was once touted as a “miracle mineral,” its fibers can cause life-threatening illnesses to anyone who ingest them.

Once asbestos fibers are inhaled, the body can expel some of them through sneezing, coughing, and other bodily functions, but it’s impossible to get rid of all of them. Asbestos fibers are tiny, colorless, odorless, and undetectable. People exposed to asbestos have no way of knowing how many asbestos fibers they inhaled.

Over time, these tiny fibers begin to scar the lining of the body’s major organs, with the lung’s linings being the most common (the pleura), followed by the abdominal lining (the peritoneum). The scarring may eventually lead to dangerous illnesses such as malignant mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer.

Can Veterans Hold the Government Responsible for Asbestos Exposure?

Under the Feres Doctrine, veterans cannot sue the government for any asbestos-related illnesses. However, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offer free medical care and disability compensation for those who qualify.

In addition, veterans have the legal right to file a mesothelioma lawsuit against the manufacturers that supplied asbestos-containing products to the military. Since there were literally hundreds of asbestos suppliers, it’s ideal for veterans to consult an experienced mesothelioma attorney who specifically specializes in these types of cases and knows how to undercover each manufacturer that supplied asbestos-containing products to the military.

To date, numerous veterans have received compensation after developing a life-threatening illness due to asbestos exposure. In most instances, an asbestos lawsuit will help provide compensation for medical bills, pain, suffering, lost wages, and in some states, punitive damages.

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