Asbestos Exposure in the Air Force – What You Should Know

In our posts about asbestos in the armed forces, we have pointed out how our dedicated service men and women were exposed to the deadly fiber not just in the U.S. Air Force, but also in the Coast Guard, Navy and Army.

How Are People Exposed to Asbestos in the Air Force?

Microscopic asbestos fibers, used in various military applications for construction and insulation in the Air Force from the 1930s through the early 1990s, were released into the air when disturbed or worn away with equipment use. Those airborne asbestos fibers were then ingested or breathed deep into the lungs of Airmen and other military service personnel where they settled for years, sometimes decades.

How Did Exposure Develop Into Mesothelioma in Air Force Veterans?

Once the asbestos fibers become embedded in the lining of the airmen’s lungs, stomach, abdomen, or other parts of the body, scar tissue starts building and inflammation continues for sometimes a few decades. Slowly, damage from the asbestos particles begins impeding their ability to breathe and could eventually cause asbestosis, lung cancer, or the deadly type of cancer known as mesothelioma.

Who is Responsible for Exposing Men and Women in the Air Force to Asbestos?

Manufacturers of these asbestos laced products knew they were toxic, but they continued to use asbestos in products they provided to the U.S. military including the Air Force. That is why manufacturers of asbestos-containing products are responsible for compensating Air Force veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Can I File a Lawsuit Against the Company that Made the Asbestos Components?

In many cases, yes. Materials containing asbestos were used in practically every facet of military construction, and in every branch of the armed forces because of its “valuable” insulating and fire-resistant properties. Many manufacturing companies knew the equipment they were providing the Air Force had asbestos, but did anyway. If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos in the Air Force, our attorneys may be able to validate your eligibility to file a lawsuit against the companies that manufactured asbestos products.

The lawyers at Baron & Budd never sue the United States military.

We sue the manufacturers who put asbestos into products that were used in the construction of everything from cockpit heating systems to insulation for cargo bays. Let us examine how Air Force veterans were exposed to toxic asbestos, and what legal options they may have for mesothelioma compensation.

What Products Exposed Air Force Men and Women to Asbestos?

Some of the products responsible for Air Force asbestos exposure include:

  • Piping
  • Flame retardent
  • Fire proof liners
  • Armor plating
  • Gaskets
  • Adhesive
  • Boilers
  • Cement Board
  • Flooring
  • Barracks
  • Building Materials in Hangars
  • Aircraft Breaks
  • Fireproof Suits
  • Heat Resistant Gloves
  • Insulation in Aircraft
  • Insulation inside buildings and hangars

And much more. By the time the Air Force was designated as an independent branch of the United States military in 1947, the use of asbestos products supplied by American manufacturers to the armed forces was already widespread. Valued for its tensile strength and lightweight, 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 world.

Air Force Bases Built with Asbestos Products

Air Force bases and stations that were built using products with asbestos include but are not limited to:

  • Buckley
  • Chanute
  • Ellsworth
  • Tinker
  • Williams Air Force Base
  • Lowry Air Force Base
  • Burns Air Force Station
  • Sheppard Air Force Base
  • Eielson Air Force Base

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% amosite and chrysotile asbestos fibers.

At Chanute Air Force base in Rantoul, Illinois, which was closed in 1993, over 6,000 feet of asbestos-covered steam-pipes were removed. All that pipe insulation was above ground where it had become frayed by 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, which still contain massive amounts of asbestos insulation in various states of disintegration, are slated for demolition in 2015.

In addition to their housing, offices, eating and recreational spaces, Air Force personnel were exposed to asbestos in many ways.

Air Force Jobs with High Rate of Asbestos Exposure

  • Maintenance Technicians
  • Aircraft Mechanics
  • Metalsmiths
  • Aircraft Handler
  • Jet Engine Mechanic
  • Electronic Technician
  • Fire Control Technician

Aircraft Maintenance Technicians were responsible for the upkeep and safety of military planes. Some of their duties 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.

Air Force 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 for the new brake pads or clutch facings to adhere to. 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 actually 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 study. By then thousands of Airmen 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 including mesothelioma.

If you or one of your parents served in the Air Force during the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s or 1980s and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please contact the Air Force asbestos claim lawyers at Baron & Budd to receive a completely confidential evaluation.

Your country appreciates the sacrifices you made to protect and defend its citizens. A grateful nation should not have put its service members at risk for exposure to the deadly toxin asbestos. You will not be asked to sue the government or the military. If we take your case, a mesothelioma attorney will pursue compensation from the asbestos manufacturers who knew the danger of asbestos but used it in their products, anyway, to the detriment of thousands of dedicated Airmen and service personnel.