Veterans Video: Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Navy

Veterans Video: Asbestos Exposure in the U.S. Navy

Here’s the latest installment in our Veterans video series. It is titled, “Asbestos Exposure in the Navy.”

Some of this is covered in the video, but here are a few details: Roughly one-third of those diagnosed with mesothelioma are military veterans. This does not mean that 33 percent of veterans get mesothelioma. It means that of the 2,000 to 3,000 cases that are diagnosed each year,  about 600 to 900 of them are veterans.

This does not mean that all these cases came from asbestos exposure in the military far from it. But many veterans left the service to work in traditional blue-collar jobs, jobs in which asbestos exposure could have been an issue somewhere.

Now, the Navy: The fact is, almost every American naval craft built since the start of World War II through the Vietnam War had asbestos inside. Insulation, lagging, asbestos-containing paint. And virtually every part of the ship was affected. The most asbestos, the more potential there was for exposure. You get the picture.

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Asbestos is an exceptionally good fire-retardant material and insulating material. For the purposes that we used it for, it’s great. It does a terrific job.

The problem is that the fibers, if they get into the air and you breathe them, have a tendency to get lodged in your lungs and your body can’t get rid of them. And it causes scarring in your lungs called fibrosis. And if it’s caused by asbestos, there’s a special term called asbestosis, which is actually fairly common.

It can always affect the lining of the lungs and cause something called calcified pleural plaque. And it is also known to cause cancers. And that can be lung cancer, esophageal cancer, throat cancer, G-I track cancers as well as mesothelioma, which affect typically the lining of the lungs or the lining of the abdomen.

The asbestos companies started realizing as early as to my understanding the ’20s and ’30s they recognized that asbestos was causing their own workers who were exposed more than anybody to get sick. This is far before they knew about mesothelioma and cancer being caused by it, but they did know people were getting sick with at least asbestosis and in a lot of cases actually passing away from it.

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