Military Veterans and Mesothelioma
Veterans could be killed and injured in combat. All too many of them faced the same fate because of asbestos exposure during their service. All branches exposed their members to this cancer-causing mineral fiber. Some had their lives ruined years or decades later.
If you’re a veteran injured by asbestos while serving in the military, you may qualify for compensation and VA benefits. Satterley & Kelley PLLC can work to get you the help you deserve.
What Did They Do?
Military members have not only engaged in combat over the past decades but also trained for it. They lived in military and off-base housing, fixed vehicles, maintained and flew aircraft, lived aboard and repaired ships. Depending on their duties, they may have been heavily exposed to asbestos.
How Were Military Veterans Exposed to Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber. Its use is documented back to the ancient Greeks. After it was mined and processed, it was used in thousands of products, including many used by the military. It’s lightweight, fire and heat-resistant, and doesn’t conduct electricity. Before its use was largely banned in the late 1970s, asbestos fibers were cheap and readily available.
Asbestos was a critical part of housing, vehicles, aircraft, and ships for decades. Veterans, especially those who made the military a career, may have inhaled or swallowed asbestos fibers in many environments and locations while performing their duties or simply by living in military-provided housing.
Military vehicles must be maintained and repaired. That could mean maintaining, taking apart, and putting back together asbestos-containing brakes, clutches, gaskets, packing, and valves.
All branches used aircraft with asbestos-containing parts, and protective gear might contain it too. Affected parts could include brakes, engine mounts, heat shields, valves, gaskets, and electrical equipment.
Ships with sailors and Marines were loaded with asbestos for decades. It covered boilers, steam pipes, and electrical equipment. Fire, accidental and caused by opposing forces, is a significant threat on a Navy ship, so they liberally used asbestos-containing fireproofing onboard. Veterans present at shipyards while on duty could be exposed by workers removing or installing asbestos products.
Housing could have asbestos tiles using asbestos-containing adhesives. Ceiling tiles, paints, sheetrock, electrical, and heating systems could all have asbestos.
In all these situations, asbestos-containing products installed by the military or contractors were often kept in working order or repaired by those in the military. That could mean removing, cutting, pulling off, or drilling through asbestos products. Newly installed ones may need to be mixed, cut, shaped, or drilled to fit. Either way, the air could be filled with asbestos fibers.
What are the Dangers of Asbestos to Military Veterans?
Asbestos fibers are foreign to the body. Normally the immune response is to destroy foreign objects, but these fibers are immune. Instead, the immune cells are destroyed, spilling enzymes into nearby tissue, causing injuries and inflammation.
If enough fibers are breathed into the lungs, they cause scar tissue that may severely affect the person’s ability to breathe (asbestosis). Asbestos can also cause cellular changes that, over many years, can lead to lung cancer. Fibers can also be swallowed and work their way through the digestive tract.
Asbestos also causes different types of mesotheliomas, a deadly cancer of thin, tough membranes covering other areas inside the body:
- Pleura: This covers the lungs and chest cavity, causing pleural mesothelioma
- Peritoneum: This lines organs and the abdominal cavity, resulting in peritoneal mesothelioma
- Pericardium: The heart’s lining, which is the site of peritoneal mesothelioma
Where in the body fibers are located and how many there are depends on the period of time the person ingested them and how many fibers were in the air. Some asbestos fibers are more toxic than others. Smoking increases the chances of developing asbestos-related lung cancer.
How Dangerous is Mesothelioma?
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type. It’s generally treatable but not curable. Treatment may alleviate symptoms, improve your quality of life and extend it, but ultimately, it’s not a cure. The American Cancer Society estimates that, depending on how advanced the disease is, from 8% to 20% of people with pleural mesothelioma survive five years after diagnosis.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is more treatable. One study estimates nearly half of those with the condition lived seven or more years after being diagnosed. Pericardial mesothelioma is the most lethal. A study of patients estimates that, on average, they lived two months after diagnosis.
Call Us Today for A Free Consultation
If you or a loved one developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease while serving in the military, Satterley & Kelley attorneys can answer your questions, talk to you about your rights to compensation, and discuss what you should do next. Call our Louisville office at 502-589-5600 or toll-free at 855-385-9532. You can also fill out our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.