United States military veterans account for 8 percent of our country’s adult population but also an estimated 30 percent of those diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma each year.
What is the reason for the disproportionate number? Exposure to asbestos.
Veterans are still fighting the battle. They were targeted unknowingly.
The once-ubiquitous use of asbestos in the military has dropped significantly in recent decades, but the high incidence rate of all asbestos-related diseases remains stubbornly high among veterans, stemming from the long latency period (10-50 years) between exposure and diagnosis.
Asbestos continues to kill our vets.
It’s a naturally occurring mineral once coveted for its versatility, affordability and flexibility. The military loved it because it could strengthen and help fireproof most everything. It was used to protect the men and women who were serving the country.
Unfortunately, it also was toxic. As it ages, it becomes brittle. The microscopic asbestos fibers are easily and unknowingly inhaled or ingested. They can become lodged in the lining that surrounds the lungs and cause scaring that eventually will lead to any number of serious health problems.
Asbestosis, pleural plagues, lung cancer and mesothelioma are just a few of the problems still occurring from past use of asbestos.
No branch of service was immune. In the U.S. Navy, ships were covered from bow to stern with asbestos, as were submarines. The U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Air Force also used asbestos products extensively in vehicles, offices, barracks and mess halls. The military used more than 300 products containing asbestos.
Asbestos became an unseen threat to military personnel. Many are paying the price today long after leaving the service. Those who were exposed in the 1970s — at the height of asbestos use in the military — are just now being diagnosed and require specialized treatment.
Another problem is that veterans, upon leaving the service, often moved into jobs in the private sector that also involved asbestos products. Anyone in construction, ship building and repair, electrical work or plumbing, came in contact with asbestos in the 20th century.
The good news is that veterans may qualify for special financial benefits from the VA for asbestos-related claims, and The Mesothelioma Center can guide them through the often-complex process of receiving those benefits.
There also are a select number of surgeons and oncologists within the VA health care system who are specialists in asbestos-related diseases. Thoracic surgeons Dr. Abraham Lebenthal in Boston and Dr. Robert Cameron in Los Angeles are two of the world’s most renowned mesothelioma specialists, and both are in the VA system.