Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that can withstand heat and fire, is resistant to caustic substances and possesses sound-deadening qualities. When crushed, its soft, durable fibers are incredibly strong and can be formed into flexible threads that can be incorporated into products as diverse as fireproof fabrics, plasters and textured paints, friction products like brake linings, and construction materials such as asphalt roofing, floor tile and household siding.
Although considered a “wonder-product” throughout the 1900s, exposure to asbestos in its fibrous form can cause a rare but very aggressive cancer called mesothelioma, as well as lung cancer, other cancers, and diseases such as asbestosis. This happens when the microscopic particles of asbestos are inhaled or ingested into the body and become lodged in the lungs and other internal organs.
All branches of the United States military embraced the fireproof, corrosion-proof and soundproof qualities of asbestos products early on. Wanting to protect their service personnel from the catastrophic effects of fire in enclosed spaces, the U.S. military was the nation’s largest consumer of asbestos-containing products from the late 1930s through the 1980s.
As a result of the massive quantity of asbestos products purchased and used by the American military over the past century, U.S. veterans have historically been diagnosed with more than a third of all mesothelioma cancer cases in America. Yet, due to an extremely long latency period between exposure to asbestos fibers and onset of symptoms, generally ten to 70 years, many more veterans who worked with and around asbestos will continue to be diagnosed with asbestos diseases, even though their military service, and exposure to asbestos, ended years ago.
Exposure in the Branches
Military occupations, as well as civilians working for the military, such as shipyard workers, carried a high risk for asbestos exposure because they used, installed, or worked around asbestos products frequently. Certain members of the military, such as those enlisted in the Navy who worked in boiler rooms aboard ships, were at very high risk for developing an asbestos-related illness.
The fact is that all branches of the military exposed their personnel to asbestos throughout the twentieth century. Even if service members were not working with or around asbestos products directly, they slept in barracks and ate in mess halls laden with asbestos-containing products. From the insulation-wrapped pipes that carried steam throughout a military base for power and heat, to the buildings constructed of asbestos-containing plaster, roofing tar, shingles and fireproof paints, personnel were exposed at military bases throughout the United States and elsewhere, as well as on land, at sea and in the air, whether they were stationed in active combat zones or at stateside bases.
Here is how asbestos exposure in the United States military breaks down branch by branch:
Asbestos was used heavily throughout construction of the Navy’s fleet of vessels and vehicles during World War II and after, many of which are still in use today. Asbestos insulation was used in boiler rooms, sleeping quarters, munitions holds and mess halls, and in shipboard components from electric boards in the radar towers and radio rooms to centrifuge units in the sick bay laboratories, from shipboard armaments to the kitchen ovens in which the daily bread was baked. Naval enlisted men, with trades such as boilertender, watertender, firetender, engineman or boiler technician were exposed most frequently to asbestos, as were the officers who supervised them, since they worked in the boiler and engine rooms aboard ship, where enormous amounts of asbestos insulation were used.
Indeed, almost all service personnel who spent time aboard ship can recall the thick asbestos covering which wrapped the pipes extending through their sleeping quarters, sometimes right over their bunks. Navy personnel would often stamp out their cigarette butts in this insulation before “lights out”. In addition, during rough seas when the main propeller frequently emerged from the water between violent waves, the entire ship would shudder, causing clouds of asbestos dust to rain down on the sleeping crew from those same pipes. The largest aircraft carriers and the smallest amphibious watercraft all contained the deadly mineral in some form.
In Navy and civilian shipyards, where vessels were constructed, repaired and underwent periodic maintenance, hull technicians, shipfitters, steelworkers and welders were all exposed to asbestos from the products they used in their daily work. Welding blankets were made almost entirely of asbestos fabric, and thick asbestos-filled insulation boards were installed between the exterior hull and interior walls of ships during new construction and repairs.
The Navy also employs a militarized construction battalion, known as the SeaBees, which was formed in 1942 from the ranks of recruits and enlisted men who joined the service with experience in more than 60 skilled trades. This innovative and hardworking force, made famous in 1944 by the John Wayne movie The Fighting SeaBees, built naval bases, airstrips, docks and piers, storage tanks, warehouses, hospitals and housing for thousands of military personnel, and were instrumental in providing structural support during WWII, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and in our more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Much of the construction materials used by the SeaBees throughout the last half of the 1900s contained asbestos fibers, which provided tensile strength as well as fire-resistant and sound-deadening properties.
In the 1970s, the Navy began to make a concerted effort to limit the amount of asbestos to which servicemen and women were exposed, but the utilization of asbestos materials throughout every aspect of Naval operations was so pervasive that its application continued for the rest of the decade and beyond, all the way into the 1990s in some cases. And even when the Navy issued directives to its qualified civilian manufacturers to substitute non-asbestos gaskets, rope packing and other materials in the products they supplied, those manufacturers resisted, not wanting to incur the higher costs of more expensive substitutes.
While the lawyers at Baron & Budd don’t ever sue the United States Navy for a veteran’s exposure to asbestos while serving in the military, we do pursue the manufacturers of the products that were used in the construction and operation of everything from aircraft carriers to submarines. Click here to learn more.
Navy Occupations Most at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
- Boiler Technician
- Boilerman (Utilitiesman)
- Boiler Repairman
- Fireman Recruit
- Fireman Apprentice
- Fire Tender
- Master Chief Steam Propulsionman
- Molder (Cupola Tender)
- Molder (Foundryman)
By the time the Air Force was designated an independent branch of the United States military in 1947, the use of asbestos products supplied by American manufacturers to the armed forces was widespread. Valued for its tensile strength and light weight, its fire resistance and superior sound and heat insulating characteristics, asbestos fibers were incorporated into all manner of materials used in the construction of Air Force bases and radar stations on American soil and around the globe, including Buckley, Chanute, Ellsworth, Tinker and Williams Air Force bases, to name a few.
The presence of asbestos at Air Force facilities was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2002, when a plan was put into place to abate the widespread contamination. At that time, the CDC reported that building insulation, floor tile and adhesive, wallboard, plaster and pipe insulation at Burns Air Force Base in southeast Oregon contained up to 60 percent amosite and chrysotile asbestos fibers.
At Chanute Air Force base in Rantoul, Illinois, which was closed in 1993, more than 6,000 linear feet of asbestos-covered steam pipes were removed. All that pipe insulation was above ground where it had become frayed by weather and wear and tear. As the insulation deteriorated, asbestos fibers were released into the air, both outdoors and inside buildings, where it was undoubtedly breathed or ingested by hundreds of military personnel over the years. Additional underground steam tunnels spread across Chanute’s 640 acres contained massive amounts of asbestos insulation in various states of disintegration and were slated for demolition in 2015. In addition to their housing, offices, eating and recreational spaces, Air Force personnel at every air station were also exposed to asbestos in the following ways:
Aircraft Maintenance Technicians were responsible for the upkeep and safety of military planes. Some of the duties of aircraft mechanics included adjusting, repairing and overhauling aircraft engines, maintaining hydraulic and pneumatic systems, changing aircraft batteries, adjusting and changing brake pads and maintaining other aircraft equipment, much of which contained asbestos components. Asbestos blankets served as heat shields for engines and were used inside the plane’s “skin” to keep the cockpit and cargo bays a habitable temperature at high altitudes. Engine valves were made tight using asbestos rope which was packed around valve stems and into pipe joints to prevent leaks. Hoses and wiring were coated with asbestos insulation to prevent electrical shorts and heat loss. Asbestos-laden adhesives and epoxies were used to seal breaches in aircraft fuselage, wings and tail sections.
Vehicle Technicians tended to the repair and maintenance of the Air Force’s extensive fleet of transport vehicles. These mechanics regularly ground vehicular brake and clutch rotors smooth, releasing asbestos fibers into the air all around them. They used air hoses to blow the residual fibers away from the discs to ensure a smooth, clean surface to which the new brake pads or clutch facings could adhere. Liners consisting of asbestos insulation were installed in a vehicle’s hood to protect it from heat damage caused from the high temperatures generated by combustion engines. And numerous engine components, such as valve stems, were sealed with asbestos rope packing or gasket material to make them leak-proof.
Aircraft Control and Warning Radar Operators maintained and controlled numerous radar stations throughout the United States in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, all of which were built using asbestos construction materials. The Burns radar station in Oregon, which was closed by the Air Force in 1970, was declared a public health hazard in 2002 when high levels of airborne asbestos fibers, among other contaminants, were found all over the abandoned facility, both indoors and out. Despite signs posted by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality warning of the extreme risk of asbestos exposure, the heavily vandalized base was a popular hangout for area teenagers before most of the asbestos was abated in 2004.
In 1994 the U.S. Air Force developed guidelines for eradicating asbestos from its facilities and established requirements to “incorporate…asbestos management principles and practices into all Air Force programs,” according to the new policy. By then thousands of servicemen and women had passed through the doors of these bases and worked on or in its aircraft and vehicles, exposing them to the potentially harmful effects of asbestos fiber. These are the military personnel facing asbestos-related illnesses now.
While the lawyers at Baron & Budd don’t ever sue the United States Air Force for a veteran’s exposure to asbestos while serving in the military, we do pursue the manufacturers of the products that were used in the construction and operation of everything from aircraft engine parts to vehicle brakes. Click here to learn more.
Since occupying the first Marine barracks next to the Washington Navy Yard in the District of Columbia in 1801, the men and (later) women of the United States Marine Corps have evolved into a fast-reacting, light infantry fighting force carried primarily by the Navy to deploy amphibious landings on enemy-held lands where they specialize in building and defending forward bases. With a unique communication system between ground and air, shore and sea, the Marines developed an integrated, multi-dimensional, amphibious and airborne assault force which was deployed widely in World War II and in the Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf and Middle East conflicts since.
The construction of an increased number of forward bases in the mid-1900s required material that was lightweight, flexible, strong and resistant to heat and chemical damage. Asbestos fibers fit the need perfectly and were incorporated not only into the buildings erected, but were also used in armored vehicles, aircraft, and the sea-going vessels which transported Marines into combat.
Thousands of Marines had to be housed stateside while being trained and between deployments. Camps with barracks all over the United States (and elsewhere) were constructed of asbestos-laden materials, including floor tile, cement wallboard, plaster and stucco, putty and grout, sheetrock-mud, ceiling tile, roofing materials, siding, and heating and plumbing insulation.
Marines were transported to battle and on peacekeeping maneuvers aboard Navy vessels. They shared poorly ventilated eating and sleeping quarters with sailors aboard ship, breathing the same re-circulated air on the lower decks where aging, asbestos-wrapped steam pipes, fireproofed floors, walls, ceilings and hulls, insulated boiler rooms and munitions bays released microscopic asbestos fibers into the air with every shudder of the ship’s propellers.
In 1957, the Marine Corps embraced the newly-developed M-60 Main Battle Tank, deploying the armored fortresses by the thousands. These panzers were heavily fortified with asbestos insulation and fireproofing. Their 105-millimeter main gun and 7.62 and 12.7 mm machine guns required the use of asbestos-woven gloves to operate when hot.
In addition, Marine Corps transport vehicles utilized asbestos-coated wiring, brake pads, clutch facings and engine gaskets. Amphibious landing vessels and all-terrain vehicles likewise contained asbestos-coated firewalls and other components. Gunners and their assistants wore asbestos mittens to prevent burns when handling hot ammunition casings while operating many types of armored vehicles.
Asbestos products have been identified at Marine Corps bases in North and South Carolina, California, Hawaii, Virginia, Cuba and Japan, and at Marine recruiting depots, training centers and air stations in Hawaii, Arizona, California and Virginia, as well as the original Marine barracks at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. While asbestos has not been employed in Marine Corps facilities constructed since the 1980s, many bases still utilize aging buildings where decaying asbestos materials can pose a threat when loosened or vibrated, allowing the dangerous fibers to become airborne.
In 1994 the U.S. Marine Corps implemented an asbestos safety program approved by the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA). But before that, there were hundreds of Marine barracks, base facilities and mechanical shops which underwent haphazard asbestos removal, frequently conducted by untrained crews of enlisted men. This exposure is in addition to that suffered by the men and women who served on these bases and worked on or in Marine buildings, aircraft and vehicles. It is no wonder, then, that while veterans represent only eight percent of the American population, they comprise an astonishing 30 percent of mesothelioma deaths in this country.
While the lawyers at Baron & Budd don’t ever sue the United States Marine Corps for a veteran’s exposure to asbestos while serving in the military, we do pursue the manufacturers of the products that were used in the construction and maintenance of everything from Marine barracks to amphibious landing craft. Click here to learn more.
As the largest branch of the American military, the United States Army placed a high value on asbestos insulation for its inexpensive, fire-resistant properties. Lightweight, durable asbestos fibers were incorporated into cement boards, plaster and paint, floor and ceiling tile and numerous other building products used in the construction of military bases on American soil and around the world.
Between 150,000 and 170,000 Quonset huts were manufactured during World War II. Their interiors were frequently outfitted with asbestos insulation and building materials. The half-round structures served as barracks, medical and dental offices, housing and even kitchens and dining facilities. After the war, the military sold its surplus Quonset huts to the public. Some remain standing today and just as many are still in use at Army bases around the country.
All water-based heating and plumbing systems utilized by the Army were insulated with asbestos covering on boilers and pipes which stretched throughout every base, into every building. These barracks, shops, medical facilities and mess halls have been in constant use since World War II and, as the materials have frayed with wear over the years, they have released their deadly fibers into the air.
In addition to the environment in which they lived and worked, infantrymen were exposed to asbestos during performance of their duties in motor pools while repairing and maintaining transport vehicles of all kinds. Not only did brake linings and clutch facings contain asbestos, but so did the gaskets in fuel and water pumps, as well as most of the hoses under the hood and even the engine itself. Vehicles of any type built through the 1960s also contained electric wiring that was coated with asbestos insulation. Many armored vehicles were lined with asbestos insulation, as were vehicles which carried ammunition and thus needed additional fire-retardant capabilities.
Artillerymen wore asbestos gloves to protect themselves from burns when loading machine gun barrels and handling hot artillery shells. These gloves slowly disintegrated with use, emitting microscopic asbestos fibers as they wore away. During training exercises, the dummy charges used for howitzer guns frequently contained chrysotile asbestos fibers, which would spew asbestos dust when they broke apart.
Dummy charges left over following live-firing exercises were typically burned, sending fiber-laden smoke into the air. Some of these charges still contained asbestos as recently as 2010.
In the 1990s, the United States Army underwent a massive cleanup of 32 stateside installations, which cost a billion dollars. The troops who passed through these facilities in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s are now veterans facing the possibility of an asbestos-related disease diagnosis.
While the lawyers at Baron & Budd don’t ever sue the United States Army for a veteran’s exposure to asbestos while serving in the military, we do pursue the manufacturers of the products that were used in the construction and maintenance of everything from Quonset huts to armored vehicle brakes.
The United States Coast Guard is simultaneously a military force and a federal law enforcement agency dedicated to maritime safety, security and stewardship missions. Interestingly, in times of peace, the USCG operates as part of the Department of Homeland Security, enforcing the nation’s laws at sea, protecting the marine environment, and saving lives. In times of war, the Coast Guard serves as part of the Navy Department. These dual roles make this particular branch of our armed forces unique in the nation and in the world.
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard, like those in all branches of military service, were exposed to asbestos in the normal discharge of their duties. Asbestos, a naturally-occurring mineral that was woven into fiber and incorporated into merchandise throughout the last century, provided heat and sound resistance, fire retardancy, tensile strength and lightweight volume to many products made by American manufacturers that were ideally suited for use in combat, as well as in the construction and maintenance of seagoing vessels built for the Navy and the Coast Guard.
Spread across 48 states and in 26 foreign countries, the USCG has established more than a thousand stations from which to enforce maritime laws, protect coastline and port environments, perform drug and border enforcement, and effect water rescues. These buildings were built and improved throughout the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, prime decades for the incorporation of asbestos-containing materials used in flooring, wallboards, stucco and plaster, sheetrock mud, ceiling tile, plumbing and heating insulation, exterior siding, and roofing products.
As asbestos construction and insulating materials became worn with age and were scuffed, scraped, sanded, sawed, drilled and cut with use or for replacement, asbestos fibers were released into the air where Coast Guard crews ate, slept and worked. Ingestion and inhalation of the dangerous strands allowed the fibers to work their way into the deep tissues of the lungs and peritoneal cavities of our servicemen and women, where years later they threaten to cause impaired breathing, asbestosis, or worse: lung cancer and the deadly asbestos cancer, mesothelioma.
In addition to their living conditions, Coast Guard service members served aboard several different types of marine vessels in the process of performing their duties. From diminutive patrol craft and lifeboats to seaworthy cutters, icebreakers, buoy tenders and tugboats, asbestos materials were used extensively due to the ever-present need to prevent fire aboard ship.
Asbestos insulation was used to line the bulkheads surrounding the boiler and engine rooms aboard larger watercraft, as well as for soundproofing and fireproofing throughout a ship. Asbestos lagging covered steam pipes that carried heat and energy everywhere aboard these ocean-going vessels, through mess halls and into sleeping areas. As the aging pipe-covering began to crumble with wear, asbestos fibers sloughed off and become airborne, where they were easily breathed in or ingested by the crew.
Gaskets and valve-stem packing used in pipe connections also contained asbestos. When they were replaced, the Coast Guard repairmen onboard, known by their military ratings as damage controlmen or machinery technicians, had to chisel out the old, frayed gasket material and rope packing to create a smooth surface to which the new gaskets and valve-packing could adhere. This stirred asbestos dust into the air, right where crewmembers were breathing it!
Tugboats, especially, posed an elevated risk of asbestos exposure to service personnel because their heavy-duty engines were exhausted through thick smokestacks which penetrated the deck amidship. These mighty watercraft, though tiny in comparative size; employed enormous engines and gigantic chimneys which required thick layers of insulation right in the middle of the boat. Crew members worked in close quarters below deck, surrounded by asbestos-laden fireproof hull coatings, asbestos-imbedded nonskid deck surfacing and asbestos-insulated pipes and wiring.
After World War II, commercial marine traffic and pleasure boating increased dramatically along America’s shores. The Coast Guard ramped up its search and rescue operations to meet the greater demand. The PBY 5A Catalina and the Grumman HU-16 Albatross airplanes became the backbone of the USCG’s air fleet. In the 1950s, helicopters were introduced, such as the HH-52A, which proved to be a very efficient life-saving machine. Every one of these aircraft utilized a multitude of asbestos components.
Aviation machinistmates used asbestos-padded clamps to repair high-temperature components in helicopters. Asbestos brake pads and electrical wiring were used in every seaplane, aircraft and helicopter in the Coast Guard fleet until the 1980s. In fact, almost all aircraft engines built during World War II and thereafter, through the early 1980s, used asbestos brake shoes, as well as asbestos gaskets in the engines and carburetion systems, all of which were replaced frequently. Almost all fire-retardant material on an aircraft contained asbestos fibers in those days, just as asbestos was often a component of the seals which surrounded doors and hatches found on most military watercraft.
In addition to its other roles, the United States Coast Guard is responsible for the inspection of America’s commercial vessels, our ports and facilities, and visiting foreign vessels. A study conducted from 1942 to 1970 showed that Coast Guard marine inspectors suffered the highest mortality rate compared to all other officers in the Guard. The study found that USCG inspectors were exposed to many toxic chemicals, including asbestos, and were more likely to develop a detrimental disease as a result.
On May 2, 2014, the Coast Guard issued publication CGTTP 4-11.1, a guide to asbestos management tactics, techniques and procedures. In this paper, the USCG revealed during a safety check of one of its construction-tenders in March of 2012, “significant deterioration of vermiculite coatings on barges used by the tenders”, which led to a class-wide asbestos assessment. The resulting inspections found nearly 5,000 square feet of damaged, friable asbestos aboard the construction-tender fleet alone. The assessment also found an absence of formal training for asbestos control coordinators, few documented inventories of asbestos material within the Coast Guard, and a lack of coating documentation for cutter hulls.
These revelations made clear the need to readdress how asbestos was managed throughout the United States Coast Guard. Publication of TTP 4-11.1 was issued two years later to provide guidance on developing, implementing and maintaining an asbestos management plan to control asbestos exposure in the military workplace. Asbestos control coordinators were designated for every unit. Asbestos-containing material inventories were conducted throughout the Guard. Asbestos abatement policies were enacted which continue to be implemented today.
While the lawyers at Baron & Budd don’t ever sue the United States Coast Guard for a veteran’s exposure to asbestos while serving in the military, we do pursue the manufacturers of the products that were used in the construction and maintenance of everything from tugboats to armored helicopters.
The United States Merchant Marines was developed in 1775 to form a fleet of both civilian and federally owned, sea-going, merchant vessels for the purpose of moving cargo to and from domestic and foreign ports. The vessels and the mariners themselves are overseen by a partnership of government and private-sector entities. The central focus of the Merchant Marines is to engage in the transportation of goods across all navigable waters around the world, primarily transporting cargo and passengers.
However, in times of war, the Merchant fleet and its operators can be called upon to deliver personnel and materiel for the military, serving under direction of the Navy Department. Although merchant mariners are civilian workers and are not part of the United States military, their officers may be commissioned as military officers by the Department of Defense during occasions of international conflict.
Whether under civilian or military management, merchant mariners were exposed to asbestos in performance of their duties aboard ship just the same as if they were enlisted members of the Navy or Marine Corp. forces. In addition to deep-water, sea-going merchant ships, the Merchant Marines also operates tugboats, towboats, ferries, dredges, excursion vessels, charter boats and other waterborne craft on the world’s oceans, as well as on our Great Lakes and in rivers, canals, harbors, and other waterways both here and abroad. Throughout the 20th century, these vessels were outfitted with numerous materials containing asbestos, as the mineral’s fibers offered superior fire, sound, and corrosion-resistant properties to waterborne vessels.
A 2018 study, published in the Journal of Industrial Medicine by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, analyzed the chest x-rays of more than 3,300 long-term U.S. merchant marine seamen. The researchers found that fully one third of the merchant seamen showed abnormalities in the lining of their lungs. The lung lining, or mesothelium, is the part of the body where the rare but deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma most often develops.
As with U.S. Navy and Coast Guard personnel, the development of asbestos disease was found to be most prevalent among merchant mariners who worked in the engine and boiler rooms of sea-going vessels. It was there that asbestos blankets were used to cover and insulate boiler casings, asbestos packings were used to seal pumps and valve-stems, asbestos insulating cement was used for sealing pipe connections and valve stem risers, asbestos refractory cement was used to re-point aging firebrick inside a boiler firebox, and pre-molded, half-round asbestos covering was used to insulate the pipes that carried steam for heat and power from the boiler room to all points on a ship. The merchant mariners who operated, repaired and maintained these insulated fittings were exposed to dangerous airborne asbestos fibers, and the associated risk of developing asbestos disease, every single day.
Health Risks of Military Asbestos Exposure
When someone serves in the United States military, he or she knows there is always a chance of being severely injured or killed in the line of duty. It is considered part of one’s service to their country, and everyone who serves accepts that risk.
What is unacceptable, however, is the fact that thousands and thousands of our military veterans developed mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases through no fault of their own, and through no fault of the branch of the military in which they served. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, breathing in deadly asbestos fibers – sometimes likely without even knowing it.
Whether a military member served aboard a Navy aircraft carrier, helped build or maintain an Air Force fighter jet or lived and worked at an Army barracks, the risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibers was high. As the asbestos materials used to shield steam pipes, line supersonic aircraft skins and insulate Quonset huts aged and became frayed, the dangerous fibers sloughed off and became airborne, where they were easily inhaled or ingested.
Once inside the body, microscopic asbestos fibers become imbedded in the linings of lungs and other organs, where they can fester for years. As scar tissue builds up round the fibers over many years, inflammation develops, which can lead to several serious health conditions. The worst of these is malignant mesothelioma, pronounced Mĕz-oh-thee-lee-oh-mŭh, an aggressive and always fatal cancer that typically kills its victims within 6-18 months of diagnosis.
Some of the cancers that can be caused by exposure to asbestos include:
- Carcinoma of the lung
- Carcinoma of the larynx
- Colorectal cancer
- Pleural mesothelioma
- Peritoneal mesothelioma
- Pericardial mesothelioma
- Testicular mesothelioma
In addition to cancer, exposure to asbestos can also cause other diseases, which can range in severity from mild to life-threatening. Some of the other diseases caused by exposure to asbestos include:
- Pleural Plaques
- Diffuse Pleural Thickening
By themselves, these plaques are benign. They do not turn into cancer and they rarely impair breathing. While only from five to fifteen percent of people who worked with and around asbestos will develop uncalcified pleural plaques twenty years after their first exposure, the number of people who develop calcified (meaning hardened and stiff) pleural plaques after thirty years jumps to between a third to half of all workers exposed to asbestos.
While plaques themselves do not cause lung cancer, some studies have shown that people who are diagnosed with pleural plaques are more likely to develop lung cancer and should therefore be screened regularly for changes to their lungs.
Diffuse pleural thickening can begin to occur in workers within a year of exposure to asbestos, although generally it is not detected and diagnosed until 15 to 30 years later when calcification occurs and the fibrosis becomes easier to see on an X-ray. Another way people can be diagnosed with diffuse pleural thickening and other asbestos diseases is when they suffer an episode of pleural effusion.
Normally, just a few teaspoons of fluid reside in the pleural lining of the lung and other mesothelial partitions. When an abnormal amount of fluid builds up in the pleural lining of the lungs, such as in response to inflammation from the scarring caused by the penetration of asbestos fibers, breathing becomes painful. It is when an asbestos-exposed worker sees a physician for an onset of painful breathing or shortness of breath, which can be the result of a pleural effusion, that a diagnosis of diffuse pleural thickening is often made.
While the presence of pleural plaques in the lungs seldom impairs breathing, diffuse pleural thickening can cause significant consequences for affected patients: severe shortness of breath, chest pain and, in rare cases, respiratory failure and death from lung constriction. A diagnosis of diffuse pleural thickening is, fortunately, much less common than pleural plaques in asbestos-exposed individuals.
Asbestosis can be difficult to diagnose at its earliest stages, since similar fibrosis is seen in cigarette smokers and those who have breathed coal, metal oxides or silica dust. However, fibrosis from coal or silica dust is generally limited to the respiratory bronchiole and does not extend down into the aveolar sacs. That deep penetration of scarring, accompanied by the presence of microscopic asbestos fibers, either lying freely in the air spaces of the lungs or imbedded deeply in the cell walls, helps doctors make a firm diagnosis of asbestosis.
In patients with severe breathlessness, there can also be significant pain from respiratory muscle fatigue occurring as a result of the increased work required to inflate lungs scarred by fibrosis. Once the lungs have been unable to completely fill with air for an extended period of time, evidence of oxygen deprivation may begin to appear in other parts of the body. For instance, the tips of the fingers and toes might begin to spoon out and flatten, curving downward, as the body diverts less well-oxygenated blood from the extremities to internal organs needed for survival. Another symptom of poor oxygen saturation is central cyanosis, a bluish cast to the lips or tongue, also indicating a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream.
Shortness of breath, chronic cough, chest pain, fatigue and weight loss are the primary symptoms of lung cancer. These symptoms tend to arise late in development of the disease. An X-ray is often the first test to show tumor growth around the lungs. Advanced imaging tests like a computerized tomography (CT) or a positron emission tomography (PET) scan provides a more detailed picture of the lungs. Samples of cancerous tissue, called biopsies, are essential to accurately diagnose lung cancer. Another part of the diagnostic process is the use of a sputum cytology test (examining phlegm expelled by the patient) if lung cancer is suspected.
In 2006, an expert panel at the National Academy of Medicine, an American nonprofit, nongovernmental organization the New York Times called the United States’ “most esteemed and authoritative adviser on issues of health and medicine”, added cancer of the larynx to the list of ailments directly linked to asbestos exposure.
A persistently sore throat, hoarseness, chronic coughing, enlarged lymph nodes, ear pain, constant phlegm production and difficulty speaking or swallowing are all symptoms of potential throat cancer. Imaging tests, chest X-rays and barium swallows provide useful information about the extent and location of the cancer, but a definitive diagnosis is always made by conducting a biopsy of the tumor.
Most scientists believe that colon cancer caused by asbestos occurs when inhaled asbestos fibers are cleared from the lung during exhalation and then are inadvertently swallowed. These fibers eventually penetrate the gastrointestinal mucosa and can initiate tumor formation as the immune system’s defense mechanisms build up scar tissue around the fibers.
Symptoms of colon cancer can include rectal bleeding, unexplained weight loss, extreme weakness and fatigue, prolonged gas, bloating, abdominal cramps and fullness, a change in bowel habits, a feeling that the bowel is not emptying completely, or no symptoms at all.
Despite different types of mesothelioma tumors and differing mesothelioma cell types, all forms of mesothelioma have in common their main cause, which is exposure to the mineral asbestos.
- Pleural mesothelioma is the most common of the malignant mesotheliomas, accounting for about 75 percent of all cases. Pleural mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs, called the pleura.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining of the abdomen, known as the peritoneum. This is the second most common type of mesothelioma, accounting for about twenty percent of all cases. Peritoneal mesothelioma is more aggressive than other mesotheliomas, spreading quickly from the abdomen to other parts of the body.
- Pericardial mesothelioma is one of the most rare of the mesotheliomas. This cancer develops in the lining of the heart, known as the pericardium. Only about one percent of all mesothelioma patients develop pericardial mesothelioma.
- Testicular mesothelioma develops in the lining of the testicles, in tissue known as the tunica vaginalis. It is the rarest of mesothelioma cancers, making misdiagnosis quite common.
Coughing, chest pain and severe shortness of breath from fluid buildup in the lining of the lungs, or distention, belly pain and digestive issues from the pressing of a tumor on organs in the abdomen, are possible symptoms of mesothelioma. Additionally, patients with mesothelioma can experience a range of emotional distress, from fear, anger, anxiety and depression to hopelessness and despair.
What to do if You Were Exposed to Asbestos in the Military
If you spent your military service working in or around asbestos, there is a chance that you might be eventually diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos disease. Once you or someone you love receives such a devastating diagnosis, there is much to consider. You might know that you were exposed to asbestos through your military service or you might have no idea how you were exposed to asbestos. Either way, you have critical decisions to make about the direction of your future.
Exposure to friable asbestos can cause debilitating illnesses. In addition to asbestosis and several types of cancer, the only known cause of the rare and always deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma is the inhalation or ingestion of friable asbestos fibers. A diagnosis of any kind of asbestos disease means that you were somehow exposed to asbestos fibers.
Asbestos cancer and mesothelioma are what are known as “dose-response” diseases. The more a person is exposed to asbestos, the greater the risk he or she has for developing an asbestos-related disease. If you know you were exposed to asbestos in the military or while working in the Merchant Marines or at a shipyard, there is a chance, no matter how slight, that you might be eventually diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos disease.
Medical experts say you should monitor your health carefully for symptoms of asbestos disease. Anyone who develops symptoms of asbestos disease, such as shortness of breath or pain with breathing, should see a family physician or lung disease specialist. A doctor should be notified if someone who has been diagnosed with an asbestos disease coughs up blood, loses weight without trying to, is short of breath, has chest pain, develops a sudden fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or develops unfamiliar, unexplained symptoms.
In addition to the essential tasks you must contemplate regarding health care once you have been diagnosed with an asbestos disease, there is another undertaking you must consider: filing a mesothelioma lawsuit. One of the single most important actions you can take to fight back against the corporations that willingly hid medical information about the deadly effects of asbestos fibers on the human body is to file a lawsuit against the companies responsible for your injuries. Nothing is as good a deterrent against corporate greed as hitting malfeasant manufacturers where it hurts: in their pocketbooks. Baron & Budd does not sue the military. Instead, we sue the manufacturers who knowingly incorporated deadly asbestos fibers into their products before selling them to the U.S. military. We also sue the manufacturers who specified in their blueprints that the military must use asbestos-containing products when assembling, repairing and maintaining their products.
Statute of Limitations
Although the restriction differs from state to state, by law there is a limited time-period to file a lawsuit in every state. If you do not file a lawsuit within this time-period, you forever lose the right to seek compensation for an asbestos cancer diagnosis. From the time your doctor first tells you that you have mesothelioma, most states allow only one to three years to file a mesothelioma lawsuit. This is called the Statute of Limitations.
Contingency Fee Lawsuit
If you have received an asbestos cancer diagnosis, you will want to choose a law firm that will handle your lawsuit on a contingency-fee basis. A contingency fee is an agreed-upon percentage of the total proceeds from the lawsuit. These proceeds might be obtained through a settlement, or a verdict, or an asbestos bankruptcy trust claim. It means you pay nothing up front, and you do not have to pay any expenses or legal fees at all unless compensation is obtained for you. If and when your lawyers are successful in achieving an award for your case, then the agreed-to percentage is taken as a fee, plus court costs and expenses. The law firm of Baron & Budd only works on a contingency-fee basis. We only get paid if a positive result is obtained for you. Period.
Respect and Dignity
The attorneys at Baron & Budd believe that every member of the military or quasi-military should have an equal ability to seek compensation for their asbestos cancer regardless of their income or social status. Ordinary people can be devastated financially by bringing legal action against corporations that have the wealth and ability to launch a formidable defense.
The powerful asbestos companies, which continued to use asbestos in their products for years after they knew it was harmful, can afford to hire teams of expensive lawyers to defend themselves. Baron & Budd will not ask you for a deposit or a retainer fee. We will not ask you to put up any of your assets as collateral, nor will your credit history or citizenship be checked. Our attorneys have the experience and the expertise needed to fight the asbestos companies on your behalf, all the way to the Supreme Court if we need to.
If you are considering filing a lawsuit for your mesothelioma diagnosis, it is important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Baron & Budd can help. Contact us online or call us at 855-280-7664 for a confidential evaluation and to learn more about your legal options.
If you served in one of our nation’s military service branches, you may have had contact with asbestos when old buildings were damaged during combat, releasing hazardous substances into the air. You might have had contact with asbestos if you worked in certain jobs or settings, such as in the engine room aboard a ship, building or repairing vessels at a shipyard, constructing or maintaining buildings on a military base, or doing vehicle repair.
You might be eligible for veteran’s disability benefits if you have an illness you believe was caused by contact with asbestos. In order to file a disability claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, you must know you had contact with asbestos while serving in the military and you must not have received a dishonorable discharge. If those requirements are met, veterans may be able to get health care and compensation payments by filing a claim for disability compensation.
You will want to talk to your doctor about getting tested for illnesses that affect your lungs. You will need to provide documents to the V.A. to support your claim. If certain conditions are met, you can file a VA disability claim.
Documents you will need to submit to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs include the following:
- Medical records that state your illness or disability
- Service records that list your job or specialty
- A doctor’s statement showing a connection between your contact with asbestos during military service and the illness or disability
If you are considering filing a lawsuit for your mesothelioma diagnosis, it is important to note that Baron & Budd does not sue the United States military. We sue the manufacturers who supplied dangerous asbestos products to the military or specified their use.
Documenting how you were exposed to asbestos is a critical first step in determining whether you can file suit against the asbestos manufacturers who failed to warn you about its deadliness. It is important that you seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Baron & Budd can help. Contact us online or call us at 855-280-7664 to learn more about your legal options.