Asbestos on Military Bases

The U.S. Armed Forces relied on asbestos for decades to build military bases and other structures. However, asbestos is now known to cause deadly illnesses like mesothelioma. Veterans who developed mesothelioma after asbestos exposure on military bases may qualify for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other forms of compensation.

Written and Fact-Checked by: Laura Wright

Why Were U.S. Military Bases Built With Asbestos?

The outside of military barracks

Every U.S. military base built from the 1930s to the early 1980s used asbestos-containing products. Asbestos was a prime choice for military bases. It was fire-resistant, an excellent insulator, non-corrosive, and very strong. It was also readily available and cheap to buy.

But service members had no idea they were risking their health by working with asbestos on military bases.

Manufacturers of asbestos-containing products knew asbestos could cause illnesses but hid the facts from the military and consumers for decades.

Health issues caused by asbestos exposure include:

Fortunately, veterans who got sick from asbestos on military bases can apply for VA benefits. With these benefits, veterans with mesothelioma can receive monthly compensation and health care from top VA doctors.

Learn how to access VA benefits and payouts from private claims — download our Free Veterans Compensation Guide now.

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How Asbestos Was Used on U.S. Military Bases

The use of asbestos on military bases was rampant. Asbestos-based products could be found everywhere from hangars to homes on the bases of each branch of the military.

Asbestos was used in:

Learn how different branches used asbestos on military bases below.

Asbestos on U.S. Air Force Bases

The buildings, planes, and vehicles on U.S. Air Force bases all relied on a wide range of asbestos-based products for decades.

Asbestos was used in over 80 U.S. Air Force bases, including:

  • Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma
  • Amarillo Air Force Base, Texas
  • Benton Air Force Station, Pennsylvania
  • Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois
  • Dover Air Force Base, Delaware
  • Edwards Air Force Base, California
  • Eglin Air Force, Florida
  • Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota
  • Griffiss Air Force Base, New York
  • Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii
  • Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida
  • Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi
  • Lackland Air Force Base, Texas
  • Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado
  • Liberal Army Air Field, Kansas
  • Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Alabama
  • Newark Air Force Base, Ohio
  • Norton Air Force Base, California
  • Othello Air Force Station, Washington
  • Randolph Air Force Base, Texas
  • Robins Air Force Base, Georgia
  • Scott Air Force Base, Illinois
  • Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas
  • Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio

Asbestos insulation, tiles, and cement were commonly used in Air Force bases. Asbestos was also found in parts of Air Force planes and vehicles (like cockpit heating systems and engine heat shields). The protective equipment worn by Air Force firefighters and welders even contained asbestos too.

Asbestos-based products may still linger on older U.S. Air Force bases even in the present day despite removal and cleanup efforts.

Did You Know?

In 2021, families living on Lackland Air Force Base and Sheppard Air Force Base filed a lawsuit after finding asbestos and other toxins in their military housing. The families did not sue the Air Force — instead, they took action against the private company that managed the housing.

Get our Free Mesothelioma Guide to learn more about how asbestos was used by the military and how to get help after a cancer diagnosis.

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Asbestos on U.S. Army Bases

Anyone working or living on a U.S. Army base before the 1980s may have been exposed to asbestos.

Nearly 70 Army bases used asbestos, such as:

  • Blue Grass Army Depot, Kentucky
  • Camp San Luis Obispo, California
  • Fort Benning, Georgia
  • Fort Bragg, North Carolina
  • Fort Campbell, Tennessee/Kentucky border
  • Fort Gillem, Georgia
  • Fort Hood, Texas
  • Fort Jackson, South Carolina
  • Fort Lee, Virginia
  • Fort Lewis, Washington
  • Fort Knox, Kentucky
  • Fort McCoy, Wisconsin
  • Fort McPherson, Georgia
  • Fort Monmouth, New Jersey
  • Fort Shafter, Hawaii
  • New Cumberland Army Depot, Pennsylvania
  • Pueblo Chemical Depot, North Carolina
  • Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois

The U.S. Army added asbestos to products on base to protect them from fire and extreme heat. Asbestos-containing materials were used in boilers, brake pads, electrical wiring, and construction products.

As is the case with Air Force bases, some older structures on U.S. Army bases may still contain asbestos. For example, World War II-era structures on Fort Campbell built with asbestos were still in use until they were safely demolished in 2021.

Our team of Patient Advocates can find out if you were exposed to asbestos on an Army base — and determine what you can do next. Contact us today to get started.

Asbestos on U.S. Navy Bases

The U.S. Navy used more asbestos than all other military branches — particularly in its ships and shipyards. However, the Navy also used a lot of asbestos to build its bases.

U.S. Navy bases that used asbestos included:

  • Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina
  • Naval Air Station Alameda, California
  • Naval Air Station Cecil Field, Florida
  • Naval Air Station Glynco, Georgia
  • Naval Air Station Lemoore, California
  • Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida
  • Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
  • Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida
  • Naval Amphibious Base, Virginia
  • Naval Base San Diego, California
  • Naval Operating Base Terminal Island, California
  • Naval Ordnance Plant, Arkansas
  • Naval Submarine Base, Connecticut
  • Naval Support Activity Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
  • U.S. Naval Hospital, Georgia
  • Washington Navy Yard, Washington DC

The U.S. Navy used so much asbestos as it was thought to be the perfect material for fireproofing and insulation for bases and ships. As a result, U.S. Navy veterans had the highest rate of asbestos exposure out of any military branch.

There are many other Navy bases not listed above that could have put you at risk of exposure. The Mesothelioma Hope team can find out how you were exposed to asbestos and help you get the care you deserve. Reach out to our Patient Advocates now.

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Asbestos on U.S. Coast Guard Bases

Several U.S. Coast Guard bases located throughout the country relied on asbestos-containing products before the 1980s.

Coast Guard military bases with asbestos include:

  • U.S. Coast Guard Base Alameda, California
  • U.S. Coast Guard Base Gloucester, New Jersey
  • U.S. Coast Guard Base Los Angeles Long Beach, California
  • U.S. Coast Guard Station, Connecticut
  • U.S. Coast Guard Station Curtis Bay, Maryland

The U.S. Coast Guard also commonly used asbestos-based products to protect its ships from fires. All areas surrounding the engine, boiler room, and other high-heat areas on the lower deck of Coast Guard vessels were insulated with asbestos.

How Asbestos Exposure Occurred on Military Bases

Marine Corps personnel were at a high risk of asbestos exposure on military bases when they cut, drilled, sawed, sanded, and fit asbestos-containing products as part of construction projects.

The risks also increased when old asbestos materials became friable (easily crumbled). This could make it easier for asbestos fibers to enter the air and be inhaled.

Military personnel could unknowingly inhale large amounts of asbestos since the fibers are microscopic.

These fibers can never leave once inside the body — and since they are a foreign object, they would constantly irritate healthy tissue. After 10-50 years, the irritation of these asbestos fibers can cause scar tissue to form over and healthy cells to mutate. This causes cancers such as mesothelioma to form.

Any veteran with mesothelioma should see if they qualify for compensation to pay for their medical expenses. Call (866) 608-8933 today to connect with our Patient Advocacy team.

Help After Asbestos Exposure on U.S. Military Bases

After a mesothelioma diagnosis, military veterans may feel confused, scared, or angry. Thankfully, veterans who developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos on military bases can apply for government-issued and private benefits.

Key resources available to U.S. veterans include:

Families can also file claims on behalf of relatives or loved ones with mesothelioma as well — even if a veteran has already died. To learn more, download our Free Veterans Compensation Guide right now.

Asbestos on Military Bases FAQs

Why was asbestos used on bases if it was dangerous?

Asbestos was used on military bases because it has many favorable properties — and because the makers of asbestos-containing products hid the deadly risks.

Asbestos could make construction materials stronger and fireproof. It was also a very good insulator and relatively inexpensive to buy.

Horrifically, the makers of asbestos-based products had evidence that these goods could cause illnesses all the way back in the 1930s. Instead of protecting consumers, they said nothing for decades, selling their goods to the military and the general public and putting millions at risk of mesothelioma.

Do U.S. military bases still use asbestos-based products?

U.S. military bases no longer use asbestos in new construction due to the health risks, but older buildings on base could still contain asbestos.

There have been reports as recently as 2021 of older military buildings having asbestos-based products inside.

How do I know if I was exposed to asbestos on a military base?

If you developed mesothelioma and served on a U.S. military base, it’s possible that you were exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma and U.S. veterans account for 33% of all mesothelioma cases today since the military used so much asbestos.

For best results, reach out to our team at (866) 608-8933 to learn if you may have been exposed to asbestos on military bases.

Our team has helped many other U.S. veterans with mesothelioma and can pinpoint when and where you might have been exposed.

Written by:

Lead Editor

Laura Wright is a journalist and content strategist with more than 14 years of professional experience. She attended college at the University of Florida, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2008. Her writing has been featured in The Gainesville Sun and other regional publications throughout Florida.

5 References
  1. Babich, J. (2021, May 11). ‘never intended to be permanent:’ Fort Campbell bulldozes World War II era buildings. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://www.theleafchronicle.com/story/news/2021/05/11/fort-campbell-bulldozes-world-war-ii-era-buildings/4536509001/

  2. Keith, M. (2021, October 19). Gas leaks, rodents, asbestos: 10 military families in Texas sued their landlord over unsafe living conditions in base housing. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://www.businessinsider.com/military-families-sue-landlord-over-unsafe-living-conditions-base-housing-2021-10

  3. Military.com. (n.d.). Asbestos Illness Related to Military Service. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-benefits/asbestos-and-the-military-history-exposure-assistance.html

  4. U.S. Army. (October 27, 2014). Asbestos can Only Pose Danger when Airborne. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from  https://www.army.mil/article/137053/asbestos_can_only_pose_danger_when_airborne 

  5. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. (September 27, 2019). Veterans Asbestos Exposure. Retrieved December 8, 2022, https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/asbestos/

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