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Health Risks and Dangers of Asbestos for Navy Veterans


Asbestos use reached its pinnacle during the World War II era, when industrial innovation and production was in full force. Known for its resiliency, its fireproof qualities, and above all, its price—asbestos was widely used in numerous domestic and industrial dimensions. A naturally occurring mineral, asbestos became extremely popular for its heat and fire resistance. But widespread use of this toxic chemical occurred primarily because it was incredibly cheap. A profoundly sturdy compound that can withstand heat and pressure, asbestos found a lucrative home in many industries, but especially in the shipbuilding industry. Naturally, as the leader in naval innovation, the U.S. Navy made good use of this ‘wonder product’ and found a myriad ways to apply asbestos to practically every vessel built between the 1930s and 1970s.

Throughout the Second World War, U.S. Navy shipyards constructed thousands of ships to fulfill the needs of the war effort. To supply and keep these ships in operation, thousands of personnel worked aboard vessels and in shipyards—before, during, and after the war. For these Navy veterans, the exposure to asbestos was quite high, and has resulted in many veterans facing an awful and rapacious disease—mesothelioma cancer. The rates of mesothelioma in navy veterans should be a warning sign for all navy veterans to get screened for the disease.

Mesothelioma is a severe cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart, and abdomen. Medical science has veritably found only one sure cause for mesothelioma: asbestos exposure. While considered a rare cancer, making up only three percent of cancer-related deaths each year, to Navy veterans, mesothelioma is an eminent and real disease that is claiming their lives and those of their comrades.

IOne of the most complicating issues surrounding mesothelioma is the severe difficulty in detecting the disease. The latency period for mesothelioma symptoms to arise runs between 15 and 50 years after exposure to asbestos takes place. For physicians and victims, this long latency period means exposure to asbestos may have been forgotten or not thought of when the victim seeks a doctor for his or her symptoms. This allows the cancer to develop and spread, which attributes to the fact that mesothelioma is practically incurable and few treatments offer relief for symptoms. There are a few new mesothelioma cancer medications making headway to alleviate symptoms, however, they work best the quicker the disease is caught. The unfortunate truth for many mesothelioma victims is that, once diagnosed, they will most likely die from the cancer within two to three years.

For Navy veterans, the risk of mesothelioma is great, as working aboard vessels fitted with asbestos led to high exposure. Evidence suggests there is a link between the amount of asbestos exposure and the likelihood of falling victim to the disease (conversely, just a one-time exposure to asbestos can lead to disease)—and for veterans, the threat of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses is quite real. Asbestos fibers are very thin and are easily inhaled by people working near the material. Once inhaled, these fibers can become lodged in the lining of the heart, lungs, or abdomen. Over time, affected cells become inflamed and infected, and eventually mutate into cancerous cells.

Many Navy veterans also face asbestosis, another asbestos-induced illness that involves pulmonary ailments and potentially leads to cancer. For those who risked their lives serving our country, falling victim to an illness that originated from their service some 40 years earlier is not only a shock, but often hard to accept. Despite denial and shock, treatment and help is available for asbestos-induced diseases, and it is vital for veterans to seek out medical and legal help when they are diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness.

Legal advice and assistance for asbestos-related illnesses will not make an individual healthier or extend life.  However, the companies that built the naval vessels and those that produced the asbestos-containing materials used aboard ships are responsible for the health impacts facing employees and veterans.  The compensation received from an asbestos court case will not prolong life or bring it back, but it can certainly help cover medical bills, funeral costs, and the impact placed on the families of suffering veterans.  If you are a veteran and have reason to believe you were exposed to asbestos during service, you are advised to contact a qualified mesothelioma or asbestos lawyer to assist with the inevitable legal issues. For more information on veterans and mesothelioma, please visit www.asbestos.com.