Mesothelioma and Navy Veterans
When most people think of asbestos and mesothelioma, they think of old rotting factories, businesses, or schools. They think that the victims are, naturally, mostly the employees or residents of such types of buildings: janitors, maintenance men, or laborers.
However, asbestos had as many, if not more applications in the military as in domestic industrial fields. Of all the branches of the military, it was most widely used in the Navy and Coast Guard.
The Mesothelioma and Asbestos Cancer Resource Asbestos.net reports that “asbestos was considered so vital to the nation’s security that the Navy issued specifications in 1939 requiring its use in newly constructed naval vessels” and that “almost 300 different asbestos-containing products were used in shipbuilding during World War II alone.”
These facts, along with the statistic (also provided by Asbestos.net) that as many as 26% of all patients with some form mesothelioma are former sailors and shipyard workers, are staggering. Over the course of several decades, most of the navy came in contact with asbestos in some form.
Since inhaled asbestos fibers can remain in the lungs for years before causing problems, many of the servicemen had no problems or symptoms until later in life, long after being discharged from service.
Accountability And Potential Help For Veterans With Mesothelioma
Asbestos.net reports that the Navy potentially knew the dangers of asbestos exposure as early as 1922. Masks and respirators were always required for those working with the fibers, but wearing them was seldom enforced. In the cramped and uncomfortable conditions of working on ships, many young sailors did not bother with such equipment, not realizing the risks, and not being punished for their naïve negligence.
While veterans with mesothelioma who were exposed to asbestos in the service cannot sue the government directly, they can apply for assistance from the VA and a number of lawsuits have taken place against asbestos manufacturing companies who once worked in conjunction with the military.