Though it is now widely recognized as a cancer-causing toxin, asbestos once was a very popular building material, commonly used in hundreds of products and countless structures across the United States until the 1970s. Asbestos is still used in the U.S., but to a much lesser extent.
Asbestos on Military Bases
Asbestos was often used in construction materials on military bases, regularly exposing members of the U.S. armed services to the toxin regularly. Members of the Navy were especially highly exposed to the toxin. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs lists a vast array of occupations that could have resulted in exposure to asbestos, including:
- work on insulation and shipyards
- building demolition
- manufacturing and installation of roofing, flooring and other products.
Even though asbestos is no longer a regularly used building material, armed forces members who have recently served in countries such as Iraq in the Middle East during either of the two last Gulf wars may have been exposed during building demolition.
Unfortunately, asbestos exposure also carries beyond direct work with asbestos. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that secondary exposure could occur if, for example, an electrician worked in a navy shipyard. Even if he did not touch or go near the asbestos, if he shared workspace with those who did, he could be exposed.
Veterans Pay the Price
Because of this high level of exposure, many veterans in the United States have developed lung cancer and mesothelioma. An estimated 40,000 cancer cases are reported each year to the Veterans Affairs Central Cancer Registry, according to a 2012 report published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The researchers examined data from 2007 to provide a comprehensive picture of cancer amongst veterans. They found that in 2007, 18.8 percent of the VA cancer patients were diagnosed with lung or bronchial cancer, the second most common kind of cancer in the group, followed only by prostate cancer.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers some services to veterans who are worried about having been exposed during their service, including lung cancer screenings. There are also local support groups available to veterans with cancer offered through some chapters of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
If you believe that either you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos, contact Cooney and Conway, a law firm specializing in lung cancer and mesothelioma, to find out more about your legal rights.