While each military branch performed different roles in protecting America, they all had something in common. Their military bases exposed every service personnel to lethal quantities of airborne asbestos fibers.
Military bases used tons of asbestos-containing materials (ACM) during the early and mid-twentieth centuries. America was involved in significant conflicts during this period like World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Asbestos was a prime choice for military base construction. It was fire resistant, excellent insulation, non-corrosive and added strength to many other building products. Asbestos was also readily available, stable to work with and inexpensive to purchase.
Asbestos materials, used in many areas on U.S. military bases, had their dark side. Military service people exposed to airborne asbestos fibers were at long-term health risk for developing the fatal lung disease called mesothelioma. The vast majority of servicemen and women had no idea they were endangering their respiratory health by working on asbestos-contaminated military bases.
Some of those in high command were fully aware of how deadly asbestos exposure would be, and they chose to hide it. Asbestos product producers and suppliers also knew about asbestos dangers. They, too, remained silent as they placed the priority for profit over the protection of people. It’s well-documented that during the Second World War the Roosevelt Administration was warned about the dangers of asbestos. They kept this warning a secret, worried that general concern would prevent military personnel from serving in high asbestos-containing areas and afraid that this would harm the overall war effort.
Statistics now show that over 30% of mesothelioma cases have been shown to involve Navy or shipyard exposures. That’s one-third of all mesothelioma cases, and each one was exposed to airborne asbestos particles while serving on American military bases. They also served in the ships, planes and vehicles attached to contaminated stations. From the 1920s to the 1980s when asbestos products were standard on military bases, millions of service personnel and civilian support workers contacted asbestos fibers daily.