By Treven Pyles
Posted on October 08th, 2019
In the early 1970s, the tremendous health risks entailed by asbestos exposure were discovered and properly assessed. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they may get trapped in the lungs, where inflammation and tissue scarring may gradually occur. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, as even the slightest amount of asbestos dust or fibers lodge in the lungs, causing the emergence of lung cancer and mesothelioma, a type of cancer that occurs in the thin lining surrounding the lungs and other organs. As the disease progresses, the decrease in pulmonary function severely aggravates the quality of life.
Veterans with a well-traced history of military asbestos exposure should constantly monitoring their health, as the risk of developing serious asbestos-related lung conditions remains high throughout their entire life. Symptoms often do not become apparent until decades after the exposure meaning that these illnesses are often not diagnosed until an advanced stage.
From the 1920s to the 1980s, asbestos-containing materials became the most widely used material in all military branches. The toxic mineral was frequently used on ships, aircraft, and vehicles, mainly for durability, heat resistance, and fireproofing. There was also machinery and equipment in the military which contained asbestos.
Some of the most used asbestos products on ships were:
Due to the prevalence of asbestos used in shipbuilding, the Navy has the highest incidences of asbestos-related illnesses among its veterans compared to any other branch of the military.
The worst areas for asbestos exposure on Navy ships were around boilers, engines, ammunition, and even sleeping quarters and mess halls. Although the danger of exposure was known, companies such as Bethlehem Steel Shipyard, Long Beach Naval Shipyard, or Richmond Shipyard continued to use asbestos in ships from stern to bow. Many shipyards with asbestos concerns such as Anniston Army Depot, Alabama Drydock and Shipping Co., Bender Shipbuilding and Repair Company, Gulf Shipbuilding Company, Avondale Shipyards are passed on the EPA's Superfund list.
Many companies in the asbestos industry, from mining to manufacturing have paid millions in settlements and formed asbestos trust funds to pay victims.
Some of the most notable asbestos companies include: