Asbestos can cause mesothelioma and other cancers. Millions of Americans have died over the past 50 years from asbestos exposure. Those who served in the military – particularly the Navy – continue to develop asbestos-related illnesses.
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The Navy used asbestos containing materials (ACMs) for many purposes. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs War Related Illness & Injury Study Center, the Navy used ACMs on ships that were built before 1983 – many of which were in service for decades afterwards.
ACMs were used in many materials, including boilers, turbines, pumps, gaskets, valves, cements, adhesives and pipe coverings. They were extensively used in engine and boiler rooms. Navy veterans were exposed to asbestos when working in very close quarters, which has resulted in an increased risk of developing an asbestos-related illness.
Navy veterans who are at an increased risk of developing an asbestos-related illness include those who:
- were involved in repair of asbestos-containing equipment or removal of asbestos materials
- served on ships whose keels were laid before 1983
- worked in shipyards from the 1930s through the 1990s
- worked below deck before the early 1990s
- handled, removed or disturbed any ACM during duty
- worked as pipe fitters, welders, boiler tenders, electricians, machinists and firemen before the mid-1990s
Unfortunately, many service members often worked directly with asbestos products in tight areas with poor ventilation and were not provided with proper respiratory protection. For many Navy service members, this was a deadly combination.
Serious Health Effects of Asbestos Exposure
Many Navy veterans were continually exposed to asbestos that caused them to contract asbestos-related diseases that affect the lungs or membranes around the lungs such as respiratory cancer (lung cancer and mesothelioma), asbestosis and other types of cancer:
- Respiratory Cancer. There are two types of respiratory cancers that are generally caused by asbestos exposure – mesothelioma and lung cancer.
- Mesothelioma affects the mesothelium, a thin membrane that covers the internal organs of the body. Although there are several types of mesothelioma, most affect the membranes surrounding the lung (pleural membrane) or abdominal cavity (the peritoneum).
- Lung cancer forms in the tissues of the lung, usually in the cells that line the air passages. Lung cancer from asbestos generally does not manifest for decades after exposure. Cigarette smoking, along with asbestos exposure, can increase the risk of lung cancer by 50 to 100 times.
- Asbestosis. Asbestosis is a condition that causes lung tissue to scar and become thick, stiff and fibrotic. It can be a progressive process and result in shortness of breath. It is often associated with a chronic cough or bronchitis and can eventually lead to disability and death.
- Other Cancers. According to the Institute of Medicine, research shows that asbestos exposure can also lead to other cancers – especially those that affect the pharynx, larynx, stomach, colon and rectum.
The tragedy is that these illnesses could have been prevented if proper precautions had been taken to avoid asbestos exposure. Unfortunately, asbestos manufacturers failed to provide sufficient warnings of the health hazards of their products.
Any Navy veteran who was injured due to asbestos exposure is likely dealing with costly cancer treatments and other medical expenses that wouldn’t have been necessary had the asbestos companies provided adequate warnings. Navy veterans deserve compensation to cover these costs, and an experienced mesothelioma attorney can analyze your situation to determine your possible legal options against an asbestos manufacturer, distributor or seller.