However, this was not always the case. One group of people that has been exposed to asbestos in some of the highest quantities are those who served in the armed forces before the 1980s.
Here are some things that veterans and their families should be aware of.
Veterans and Asbestos Exposure
For its ability to resist heat and chemicals, there are few materials that perform as well as asbestos for the purpose of fireproofing. As a result, asbestos had several uses in the military, notably the Navy and Army, and this caused widespread exposure among those who served.
When the military first started using asbestos, nobody knew the potential risks that come with exposure.
However, since the identification of this risk, the military has done a poor job of making service members aware of the problem and in many cases, they have done a poor job of taking care of the men and women that have suffered the consequences of exposure to this toxic substance.
To illustrate the disproportionate impact that this issue has on veterans, the numbers speak for themselves.
In the United States, military veterans account for about 7% of the total population. However, among those diagnosed with mesothelioma, veterans account for approximately 30% of the recorded cases.
This problem of asbestos exposure and the military becomes even more troubling when you consider the potential for secondary exposure.
The person working under these conditions would often become covered in the small particles of asbestos and bring them home on their clothing – only to unknowingly expose their family to risk.
For this reason, the spouse or children of a person that served in the military may also be at risk for asbestos exposure even if they were not working in the environment where it was a direct hazard to the service member.
In fact, many of the cases of mesothelioma among women have been recorded as the result of secondary exposure.
Post Service Exposure
For many of the people that served in the military, the risk of asbestos exposure did not stop when they reentered civilian life. In the military, many of these individuals learned skills that could translate to different trade jobs.
They left the service and often took jobs in industrial settings, as plumbers, electricians, constructions workers and so on. Before the dangers of asbestos were fully identified, many of these fields also came with an increased risk of asbestos exposure.
With that being true for so many veterans, they added an additional layer of risk to that which they were exposed to in the military.
Importance of Screening
In most cases, asbestos-related illnesses will not become apparent for many years after the exposure. Further, it is often true that the early symptoms will be misdiagnosed and attributed to other conditions. This will often mean that the illness is only identified later, which limits the number of treatment options that are available.
If you are a veteran, it is important to know your risk and get early screenings for conditions like mesothelioma and others that can be associated with the exposure to asbestos.
If you had a family during your time of service, then it is also possible that they may have been subject to exposure.
For the spouses and children of these servicemembers, it is also important to understand the risk and receive screening.
Asbestos exposure could affect any person that has served in the military. While those who served before 1980 are at the greatest risk, there are still lingering issues for those who have served more recently.
Regardless of the branch in which you served or the role that you played, it is possible that you may have suffered the effects of asbestos exposure.
If you think you are at risk, get a screening and take steps to understand your rights as a veteran that may have been exposed to asbestos during your time in the military, and those of your family.