Thousands of people across the United States have encountered asbestos in their line of work, and many have contracted mesothelioma as a result. However, one of the hardest-hit areas in the US is the military.
Construction companies used asbestos heavily throughout all branches of the US military until the 1980s. According to the mesothelioma Veteran Center, nearly 1 out of 3 mesothelioma patients is a US veteran.
Why were so many veterans affected?
The US military used asbestos for the same reasons the private sector used it. Asbestos was very inexpensive and it contains insulating and fire retardant properties. These qualities made it very popular as a building material in several US military installations. In fact, for a long period of time, the construction industry considered asbestos a miracle building substance.
The military did not understand the risks associated with asbestos until the 1970s. The US military started using asbestos roughly in the 1930s. By this point, hundreds of thousands of US veterans had encountered asbestos.
Did the military know of the dangers?
No, the US military was not aware of the dangers associated with asbestos until the 1970s. Once the US military was aware of the danger, they stopped using asbestos as a building material. However, by this point asbestos was so widespread that eliminating all of it was all but impossible. Particularly for veterans who served in the US Navy, there was an extremely high likelihood of encountering asbestos, as almost all of the ships the Navy used asbestos.
As a result of this, there are very high numbers of veterans among mesothelioma patients.