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Asbestos, once seen as a magic mineral, has left a challenging legacy. For many decades, this natural mineral was prized for its heat resistance, strength, and insulating properties. As such, it became a staple in many industries, including construction and automotive. However, the military also saw its potential.

But this came at a cost since many people lost their lives after being exposed to asbestos. In Pennsylvania, for instance, 17,700 people lost the battle with asbestos-related illness from 1999 to 2017.

Today, we’ll delve into the questions many veterans have regarding their asbestos exposure during their time in service.

1.   What legal options do veterans have if they develop health problems due to asbestos exposure?

The military is not the only avenue for seeking assistance when it comes to asbestos exposure. There’s another route veterans might consider – the legal system. It’s crucial to understand that many asbestos products were made by civilian companies, not the military itself. Some of these companies knew about the dangers of asbestos but didn’t warn the public or those in the military.

Because of this, veterans have the right to file lawsuits against the companies that previously produced these harmful asbestos products. By doing so, they might receive compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, and other related expenses. In some cases, families of veterans who passed away due to asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma have also been awarded settlements.

If a veteran is considering this option, it’s advised to look up mesothelioma attorneys Pennsylvania and consult a lawyer who specializes in such lawsuits. They can guide the veteran through the process, ensuring they have the best chance at receiving the compensation they deserve.

2.   Why were veterans frequently exposed to asbestos?

Now, let’s understand why the military found asbestos so useful. The properties that made asbestos popular in the civilian world also caught the attention of the military. Because it’s resistant to heat and fire, it became the go-to material for many military applications. Can you imagine a scenario where a ship catches fire at sea? The consequences would be devastating. Asbestos, with its fire-resistant quality, appeared to be a solution to many of these concerns.

Ships, especially, had an extensive amount of asbestos. From the boiler rooms to the sleeping quarters, asbestos was used in various parts of naval ships. Its heat-resisting qualities were vital in parts of the ship that experienced high temperatures, like the engine rooms. But it wasn’t just naval ships. Aircraft and some ground vehicles also used asbestos previously, especially in their braking systems and engine components.

Furthermore, military buildings – constructed during times when asbestos was widely used – often contained asbestos in floor tiles, ceiling tiles, and insulation. In simple terms, the military, like the rest of society, saw asbestos as a means to keep their personnel and equipment safe. Unfortunately, the dangers of asbestos were not widely known or were sometimes downplayed.

3.   What health problems can arise from asbestos exposure?

Exposure to asbestos carries serious health risks. But what makes it particularly dangerous is that once the tiny asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can become lodged in the lungs and remain there for a long time. Over years, and sometimes decades, these fibers can cause inflammation and scarring.

It can lead to a disease called asbestosis. People with asbestosis have difficulty breathing because the lung tissue becomes scarred. The disease can be debilitating and, in severe cases, fatal. But that’s not the only concern. Asbestos exposure is also linked to lung cancer, which, as many know, is one of the most common and dangerous types of cancer.

A particularly aggressive cancer called mesothelioma, is almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs and, less commonly, the lining of the abdomen. It’s a challenging disease to treat and often has a poor prognosis.

One of the trickiest aspects of these diseases is that symptoms can take a long time to show up. In some cases, a veteran might have been exposed to asbestos in the 1960s or 1970s but only started to show symptoms in the 2000s. This delay, called a latency period, can sometimes be several decades.

4.   How can veterans determine if they were exposed to asbestos during service?

Identifying asbestos exposure can be a bit challenging because of the long latency period we just discussed. However, certain clues can help veterans determine their risk level.

Firstly, knowing one’s duties during service can be telling. Were you working in a ship’s boiler room? Were you involved in the construction or maintenance of military buildings? Were you repairing or maintaining military vehicles or aircraft? All these tasks carry a higher risk of asbestos exposure.

Secondly, service records can provide valuable information. They can help identify if a veteran was stationed or deployed in areas where asbestos was frequently used or where there might have been a known exposure risk.

Lastly, if a veteran is experiencing symptoms like persistent cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain, it’s essential to see a doctor. Medical tests, including lung function tests and imaging studies, can provide more insights into whether the symptoms are related to past asbestos exposure.

5.   Are there VA benefits for veterans suffering from asbestos-related diseases?

For veterans facing health issues due to their service, the Veterans Administration (VA) can be a lifeline. The VA recognizes that many veterans may have been exposed to asbestos during their service. As a result, they offer specific health care benefits and disability compensation for veterans diagnosed with diseases caused by asbestos exposure.

If a veteran believes they have a health condition because of their exposure to asbestos in the military, they can file a claim for disability compensation. This claim process involves providing medical records that show the asbestos-related illness and service records showing duties or assignments that might have exposed the veteran to asbestos.

However, it’s worth noting that being approved for disability compensation can sometimes be a lengthy process.

6.   How can veterans protect themselves and their families from further asbestos exposure?

While many veterans might have been exposed to asbestos during their service, it’s essential to ensure they and their families aren’t exposed in the present. Homes built before the 1980s might contain asbestos in various areas, including insulation, tiles, and more. If a veteran lives in an older home, it’s a good idea to have it inspected for asbestos.

If asbestos is found, it’s crucial not to try to remove it on your own. Disturbing asbestos can release harmful fibers into the air, where they can be inhaled. Instead, it’s best to hire a professional who knows how to safely handle and dispose of asbestos.

Another aspect to consider is renovations. If you’re thinking of renovating or doing any construction work in an older home, make sure to test for asbestos before starting the project. This way, you can ensure the safety of everyone involved.


Asbestos exposure remains a concern for many veterans who served during times when its use was prevalent. While it’s essential to be aware of past exposures, it’s equally important to ensure no further exposure in the present and to know what resources and options are available. By being proactive, informed, and seeking support when needed, veterans can navigate the challenges associated with asbestos and prioritize their health and well-being.

By Grace