Asbestos Exposure in the Army

As Americans, we define ourselves as patriots, protectors of basic human rights, and champions of justice around the world. Our veterans are our heroes – but the stark reality of asbestos exposure is that more than 30% of mesothelioma diagnoses are veterans. That means that over a third of the lives lost to this destructive and fatal cancer was due to exposure to asbestos during military duty. The United States Armed Forces recognizes that those who served between 1940 and 1970 – the period that saw World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War – are at risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses. Members of the Marine Corps and United States Army may still be exposed today, as hundreds of asbestos-containing materials remain installed in military base structures and vehicles. Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are concerned about the latent danger presented to our nation’s heroes, and urge any who may have been exposed to asbestos to contact an asbestos attorney immediately.

During the 1940-1970 period, the array of potential exposure sites for soldiers was dangerously extreme, as asbestos rapidly found applications in over 3,000 products. Those deployed in transport ships were subject to exposure because virtually every ship constructed by the U.S. Navy contained several tons of asbestos insulation. The use of asbestos in cement, pipe lagging, flooring, ceiling, plasters, brakes, and gaskets was commonplace due to the mineral’s fire-proof and degradation resistance.

A recent Army document was issued regarding the expansive quantity of asbestos identified and likely to be present at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. The document acknowledges that the resources available to address the problem are often insufficient, and that the asbestos management program is largely reactive. The survey of Fort Jackson listed the following facilities with potential for containing asbestos: Child care facilities/youth centers, family housing, medical facilities, unaccompanied personnel housing, general use buildings, other occupied facilities, and unoccupied facilities.
Hundreds of army barracks, base operations, and mechanical shops have undergone asbestos removal programs. The U.S. Army is also responsible for the repair of damaged areas affected by asbestos. One such case is the BoRit asbestos site in Ambler, Pennsylvania, which was used to dispose of asbestos-containning material from the early 1900s to the 1960s. The Army’s involvement in aiding in clean-up of such sites is not uncommon, and puts the health of many currently serving soldiers at risk.

The demolition of former army barracks is a major source of community asbestos contamination in the United States. For example, North Ridge Estates is a residential subdivision located approximately three miles north of Klamath Falls, Oregon. The site is contaminated with asbestos-containing materials resulting from the demolition of approximately eighty 1940s-era military barracks buildings.

EPA conducted a series of emergency removals between 2003 and 2008, but was unable to mitigate unacceptable risks to residents of the site. Residents were temporarily relocated from the site for three months in 2005. In January 2006, the developer entered a consent decree to permanently relocate the majority of the residents.

Other Army sites known to be contaminated include: Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD., Fort A.P. Hill, VA., Fort Belvoir, VA., Fort Devens, MA., Fort Dix, NJ., Fort Lewis, WA., Fort McClellan, AL., and Redstone Arsenal, AL.

Veterans who served in any of the following occupations may have been exposed to asbestos: mining, milling, shipyard work, insulation work, demolition of old buildings, carpentry and construction, manufacturing and installation of products such as flooring and roofing.

Veterans who served in Iraq and other countries in that region could have been exposed to asbestos when older buildings were damaged and the contaminant released into the air.

Army Industrial Hygiene assists in providing policy and guidance to installations to help them develop and implement asbestos management programs. Through onsite consultations and training, Army Industrial Hygiene provides Army installations with the latest asbestos information.

Development of asbestos-related diseases should not be the concern of our soldiers in the U.S. Army, and the astounding mesothelioma rates for veterans are unacceptable. If you are a veteran or the family member of a veteran, and have developed an asbestos-related illness such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer, contact an asbestos attorney at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today to discuss your legal rights.