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Mesothelioma & Army Veterans

Although the Army’s use of asbestos products was discontinued by about 1980, the problem of asbestos exposure lingers on.

Army Bases Exposed Service Personnel to Asbestos

Almost all military installations on U.S. Army bases were constructed with asbestos-containing materials. They could be found most often in insulation, plumbing/heating equipment, floor coverings, ceiling tiles, wall insulation, and asbestos cement in the buildings’ foundations.

Army Instruction Manual Regarding the  Correct Way to Makes Repairs to Asbestos Roofs Endangered Soldiers

In the instruction manual titled "Roofing Repairs and Utilities" (United States Government Printing Office, June 1945), soldiers are instructed to replace broken cement-asbestos shingles by notching the new ones and using nails to fasten them into place. The cutting and hammering of these shingles would have loosened asbestos fibers, making them airborne and easily inhaled.

In the same manual, the section concerning the repair of asphalt-prepared roll roofings instructs soldiers to use asphalt plastic cement containing 27 percent asbestos filler, and an asphalt emulsion that is approximately 4 percent asbestos. Working so closely with these asbestos-containing materials would have exposed these men to extremely high levels of asbestos.

Although this manual has a page describing safety measures to be followed while working, it doesn’t include the wearing of protective gear like masks and respirators.

Army Transport Vehicles also Contained Asbestos

Tanks, jeeps and planes exposed Army mechanics to high levels of asbestos when they performed ordinary maintenance and repair. Asbestos-containing materials were used to insulate electrical wiring and in brake pads and clutch pads in most Army vehicles and planes.

World War II Protective Equipment Used in Battle Exposed Soldiers to Asbestos

Lightweight service gas masks M3 and M4 became standard equipment for Army soldiers on the battlefield. Nearly 13,000,000 of them were manufactured between 1943 and 1945. A feature of these masks was the use of asbestos filters as a replacement for carbon-containing filter paper. This modification was supposed to improve air flow. However, what the designers of this equipment didn’t realize was they were subjecting the soldiers who wore this equipment to as a big a health risk as the one the mask was intended to prevent.

Vietnam Veterans Experience the Legacy of Asbestos Exposure

The veterans who served in Vietnam were exposed to the asbestos that had never been removed from the base structures and vehicles that were used early on in the Vietnam deployments. 

Many of these enlisted personnel actually took part in haphazard asbestos removal from barracks, base operations facilities and mechanical shops, exposing them to extremely dangerous levels.

Modern Day Paratroopers at Fort Bragg May Have Been Exposed to Dangerous Levels of Asbestos

In 2008, the U.S. Army reported that paratroopers in the 1st Brigade Combat Team were unknowingly exposed to asbestos. They had spent three weeks scraping tile and carrying out debris from a barracks storage room. Testing of the air quality in the room showed no hazardous levels of asbestos at the time. However, the soldiers’ health was going to be continually monitored, according to the Division surgeon, Dr. Bryan Sleigh.