Why Were U.S. Military Bases Built With Asbestos?
From the 1930s to the early 1980s, all military bases in the United States were built using asbestos materials. Asbestos was popular because it is fire-resistant, a good insulator, non-corrosive, and strong, and it was also easy to get and affordable. Unfortunately, the people who worked on these bases were not warned that asbestos is dangerous and can cause serious health problems.
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.
How Asbestos Was Used on U.S. Military Bases
The use of asbestos on military bases was rampant. Asbestos products could be found everywhere, from hangars to homes on the bases of each branch of the military.
Asbestos was used in:
- Acoustical tiles
- Cement powder additives
- Electrical wiring
- Fireproofing materials
- Floor tiles
- Paint & glue
- Roofing shingles
Learn how different branches use 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
Air Force bases commonly used asbestos insulation, tiles, and cement. 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.
Asbestos-based products may still linger on older bases used by the U.S. Air Force even in the present day despite removal and cleanup efforts.
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.
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, especially Army barracks. 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 utilized asbestos extensively because it was deemed an ideal material for fireproofing and insulation of bases and ships. Consequently, Navy veterans had the highest incidence of asbestos exposure among all military branches.
Even if not mentioned above, numerous other Navy bases could have exposed you to asbestos. The Mesothelioma Hope team can ascertain the source of your asbestos exposure and assist you in obtaining the appropriate medical attention. Contact our Patient Advocates today.
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
Construction work done by Marines on military bases led to high exposure to asbestos. This happened when they cut, drilled, sawed, sanded, and fitted materials containing asbestos. When old asbestos materials crumbled, they released asbestos fibers into the air which could be unknowingly inhaled by the personnel. It is difficult to detect their presence in the air because asbestos fibers are microscopic.
Once inhaled, they remain in the body and can irritate healthy tissue. This leads to scar tissue formation and mutations in healthy cells after 10-50 years. This may result in the development of cancers such as mesothelioma.
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 exposure to asbestos on military bases can apply for government-issued and private benefits.
Essential resources available to U.S. veterans include:
- Private mesothelioma claims (which award financial compensation from makers of asbestos-based products)
- VA benefits (including monthly financial payouts and free/low-cost health care)
- Asbestos trust fund claims (which can award additional compensation)
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?
Many military bases used asbestos in construction because it was strong, fire-resistant, insulated, and affordable.
Companies that made asbestos-containing products knew about the health risks as early as the 1930s but kept quiet for decades.
This put millions of people at risk of mesothelioma, including those in the military and the public who bought their products.
Do U.S. military bases still use asbestos-based products?
New constructions in U.S. military bases no longer incorporate asbestos due to health hazards. However, older structures on the base may still have asbestos-based products present.
In fact, reports as recent as 2021 have surfaced regarding the existence of such products in older military buildings.
How do you prove asbestos exposure in the military?
Call (866) 608-8933 to get help determining if you were exposed to asbestos in the military and got sick because of it. We have helped many other U.S. veterans with mesothelioma and can pinpoint when and where you were exposed.
If you have mesothelioma and served on a U.S. military base, you were likely exposed to asbestos at some point in your life.
Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma, and U.S. veterans account for 33% of all mesothelioma cases today because the military used large amounts of asbestos.
Can veterans get compensation for asbestos?
Yes. Veterans who got sick after being exposed to asbestos on military bases may qualify for compensation from the VA, lawsuits, and trust fund claims.
- VA benefits award married veterans with nearly $4,000 as of 2024
- Lawsuits pay out $1 million on average
- Trust funds have more than $30 billion available
Our team can help determine if you qualify for compensation.