While the use of asbestos spans many different occupations, it is important to understand the unique and severe impact that the use of asbestos has had on the nation’s military.
Every single branch of the US military used asbestos in some form or another. According to the Mesothelioma Veterans Center, 1 out of every 3 mesothelioma patients in the US is a veteran.
Why was asbestos used so much in the military?
Asbestos was popular because of its low cost and the fact that it provides insulation and fire protection. Asbestos, in its mineral form, is also very easy to find and refine for use. The US military used asbestos very commonly for this reason. Particularly for individuals that served in the Navy, asbestos was present on nearly every single ship.
The problem with asbestos is not that it is inherently dangerous if in normal form. The problem happens when somebody or something disturbs the asbestos, causing it to release fibers. People can inhale these invisible fibers, and over time this can produce mesothelioma cancer cells.
Did the US military know about the dangers?
No, the US military was not aware of the dangers of asbestos. The problem was with the companies that manufactured asbestos filled products. Many of these companies were well aware that asbestos could be dangerous, but they hid these realities to make a profit.
Even after asbestos was no longer used, it is still possible to have come into contact with it in the military. For example, many buildings in Afghanistan or Iraq contain asbestos. Destroying them releases it into the air.