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Veterans and asbestos exposure

Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related disorders are some of the unexpected consequences of military service -- particularly among veterans of the navy.

Shipyards and navy vessels were once packed full of asbestos -- for the simple reason that it helped prevent fires. In the military, it was used in engine rooms on ships, around brakes on equipment and a myriad of other uses. In fact, it is still used on things like engine brakes where the risks are deemed acceptable. A natural substance, no one had any idea that microscopic asbestos fibers were so dangerous to humans until long after they were in use.

In many cases, the human damage from asbestos exposure doesn't begin to show until decades after the exposure ends. That's why veterans of the armed forces represent only 8 percent of the population but make up 30 percent of the fatalities associated with mesothelioma.

Which veterans are most at risk?

If your service included work on a ship, in a shipyard, building construction or maintenance, demolitions, or work on engines and brakes, you're more likely to have experienced asbestos exposure than other veterans. Veterans who have served overseas may also have suffered exposure while searching or staying in old buildings. Keep in mind that asbestos products aren't inherently dangerous when they're new and intact -- it's the breakdown and disturbance of those products that's a problem because it puts those tiny fibers into the air.

How do you prove exposure happened during military service?

That's not always easy -- especially if you went on to work in a civilian job in a factory or somewhere else after the service was over. The good news is that there is compensation available for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions no matter when you were exposed. An attorney who deals with this type of litigation can help you determine how to get evidence of your exposure and where to best pursue compensation.

Source:, "Asbestos Illness Related to Military Service," accessed April 20, 2018

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