Approximately 24,000,000 military veterans live in the United States today. These individuals dedicated their lives to serving the U.S. and its people and many of them have been faced with serious medical conditions in connection with their service. Mesothelioma is one of these conditions, having afflicted veterans who served in World War II, Vietnam and potentially even today. In fact, more than 30 percent of Americans suffering from mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos during their military service.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer diagnosed in approximately 2,000 to 3,000 people each year in the U.S. This cancer attacks the mesothelium, a protective layer surrounding most major organs. The most common risk factor related to the development of mesothelioma is prolonged or heavy exposure to asbestos.
For decades, the fibrous mineral asbestos was used in a number of building products and in shipbuilding. It has been a widely used because it is heat resistant, fire retardant and does not conduct electricity. Even though the material is safe when solid, it is easily broken. That's when it becomes dangerous because the tiny fibers that are released can be easily inhaled and cause cancer.
Veterans may have been exposed to asbestos in a variety of ways. Those in the U.S. Navy were exposed on ships because asbestos was a component of most parts of Navy, Merchant Marine and Coast Guard ships. It was used in ship walls, boilers and insulation. During World War II alone, approximately 300 asbestos-based products were used in shipbuilding.
It was actually a required component of Navy ships from 1939 until the 1970s, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began issuing guidelines about the use of the mineral. In addition, asbestos was used in brake and clutch pads in all kinds of military vehicles. It was also used as insulation as well as in other parts of military buildings, such as roofing and in electric wiring on airplanes.
The reason veterans are only being diagnosed with mesothelioma now is because the condition has a long latency period, meaning that it may remain dormant in a person's body for 20 to 50 years after he or she has been exposed to asbestos. Consequently, veterans who were exposed during World War II may just be showing signs today.
If you are a veteran who developed mesothelioma as the result of asbestos exposure during your period of military service, or you are the family member of a mesothelioma victim, it is important to seek legal assistance. A lawyer who specializes in mesothelioma will help you determine what steps you should take to obtain compensation.