Military Bases

Summary

The United States military has bases around the world, not just in continental America. Each of the four military branches, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, built an extensive network of supply and service installations to support American national defense and international interests. The Coast Guard and National Guard also constructed bases to serve the nation.

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 percent of people diagnosed with mesothelioma every year are the United States military veterans. 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.

Asbestos-Containing Materials on Military Bases

MJN Brief

Every American military base built during the seven decades from 1920 to the 1980’s used products with asbestos-containing materials or ACMs. The U.S. Navy installed the most significant amount of asbestos in shipbuilding facilities and on ships. This amount was primarily due to asbestos seeming the perfect material for fireproofing and insulation for boats and ships. As a result, workers at naval bases had the highest rate of asbestos exposure.

 

The Army, Air Force and Marine bases were no exception to asbestos exposure. ACMs were found everywhere from hangars to homes on their military bases.

Asbestos was an ingredient in:

Military Bases and Exposure of Service Personnel to Asbestos

Although every American military base from this era contained asbestos products, the health risk to service personnel was relatively low once ACMs were installed and left alone. The deadly problem of asbestos fiber exposure occurred when workers were building the bases or working around those who cut, drilled, sawed, sanded and fit ACMs. The risk also increased on old stations when old asbestos materials became friable or crumbled into dust.

Asbestos fibers are microscopic and nearly invisible. Workers constructing, maintaining, and renovating military bases were exposed to clouds of airborne asbestos particles. They unknowingly inhaled large amounts of asbestos fibers that attached to their lung linings or mesothelium. It was impossible for affected workers to expel asbestos fibers. Over time, they built up scar tissue on the mesothelium which caused mesothelioma.

There is a lengthy latency period for developing mesothelioma. U.S. service personnel and civilian employees exposed to asbestos on military bases can wait 10 to 50 years before malignant lung tumors develop. For most of these innocent victims, treatment and recovery are too late. The only recourse is claiming compensation for developing mesothelioma.

Compensation for Mesothelioma Victims from Military Bases

If you’re a veteran (or a civilian) who developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos on a military base, you can apply for compensation. Funds are available for medical expenses, lost income and personal suffering. Families can claim on behalf of relatives with mesothelioma. Wrongful death case lawsuits are possible as well.