Mesothelioma and Asbestos in the Army
Unfortunately, many Army veterans exposed to asbestos during their active duty are now being diagnosed with mesothelioma. In turn, new and important treatment options are being developed. With these treatment plans and other veteran support options, former Army members have excellent chances of increasing their survival rates.
Asbestos Exposure in the Army
Asbestos exposure occurred anywhere from the barracks where Army veterans slept, vehicles they operated and even in ships they were transported in. It was used in every application where efficient, cost-effective insulation and fire control was required. This resulted in asbestos being installed in practically every Army facility and piece of machinery made during a 40-year period.
All Army vehicles built before the 1970s contained asbestos components. Army vehicles had asbestos for fire-retarding and noise suppression. Brakes, gaskets, and clutch plates were also composed of asbestos. Vehicles containing asbestos ranged from Jeeps to tanks, with the M4 Sherman tank having a high degree of asbestos. U.S. Army airplanes like the B-17 bombers were full of asbestos, as was the Huey helicopter of Vietnam vintage.
Many buildings on Army bases used asbestos for insulation and fireproofing. Asbestos was in caulking, flooring, ceiling tiles, roofing, sidings, and concrete foundations.
Soldiers who served in recent foreign wars like Afghanistan and Iraq may have been exposed to asbestos through buildings that were damaged or destroyed. Building clearing is a common Army task, and current active-duty soldiers may be unknowing victims of hazardous asbestos exposure.
Historically, Army service members with the highest risk of exposure were those who frequently used asbestos in their duties. This primarily included those assigned to construction or repairs of Army buildings or transport vehicles. Field soldiers had little risk of long-term asbestos exposure. The U.S. Corps of Army Engineers was at the highest risk level. This is because they worked directly with cutting, fitting and installing asbestos materials in all forms of building environments.
Army duties with the highest risk of developing mesothelioma are:
- Construction Engineers
- Carpenters and Insulation Installers
- Warehouse and Stores Personnel
- Demolition Specialists
Army mechanics were also at great risk of asbestos exposure from dust and debris when disassembling and repairing trucks, tanks, and transport vehicles. Burned brake and clutch linings held large amounts of dangerous asbestos dust that became airborne when taken apart.
Mesothelioma Treatments for Army Veterans
Army veterans exposed to asbestos are at risk of developing mesothelioma. When asbestos fibers are inhaled and/or ingested, they can become trapped inside the chest and abdominal linings. Over time, this causes severe irritation that triggers cellular mutations, leading to mesothelioma.
Army veterans who suffer from mesothelioma caused by asbestos have a few options for treating the disease.
The three main treatments are:
- Chemotherapy, which kills cancer cells with medications
- Radiation, which targets mesothelioma tumors through radioactive energy
- Surgery, which physically removes mesothelioma tumors
A combination of all three treatments is typically used. Alternative forms of emerging mesothelioma treatments appear promising as well.
These emerging treatments are available to Army veterans, including:
- Photodynamics, which uses amplified light on tumors
- Gene therapy, which modifies DNA
- Immunotherapy, which boosts the immune system so it can better fight cancer
More improvements are being made in emerging treatments. These are available to Army veterans through important research studies and clinical trials.
Mesothelioma Support for Army Veterans
It is important for soldiers to know that the Army was not responsible for putting them at risk of long-term asbestos exposure. That responsibility belongs to asbestos manufacturers and suppliers. They were well aware of the dangers, yet hid this information from the U.S. Government and military branches.
Government compensation for Army veterans who have mesothelioma is available through the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA or VA). Those who are eligible may receive Service Connected (SC) compensation benefits.
Talk to your doctor today about getting a referral to a VA mesothelioma treatment center. These mesothelioma specialists work directly with veterans. They have the knowledge and expertise to treat your individual case so you can improve your life expectancy.