How Were Air Force Veterans Exposed to Asbestos?
The U.S. Air Force used asbestos in their manufacturing, construction, and maintenance projects for the same reasons other military branches endorsed asbestos products.
Did You Know?
Asbestos was noncombustible. It wouldn’t burn under any conditions, making it ideal for aircraft engine heat shields, cockpit protection, and fuel tank isolation.
Asbestos was thermally inert and worked as an excellent insulator. It was non-corrosive and electrically non-conductive, as well as chemically stable, strong and lightweight.
Combined with low-cost and ease of access, asbestos appeared to be a miracle material for Air Force use on and above the ground.
Unfortunately, this heavy asbestos use in the military also increased Air Force members’ risk of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos products went into every American military aircraft built from the late 1930s until the early 1980s.
To the Air Force command’s credit, they took extensive steps to remove ACM from their air fleet once they understood how serious a health problem their veterans would face.
The United States Air Force (USAF) led the military’s asbestos abatement program, but that was a monstrous task.
During a 50-year period, Air Force aircraft had asbestos in these components:
- Engine heat and firewalls
- Cabin and cargo bay insulation
- Brake pads and other friction devices
- Electrical and fuel line protection
- Electrical wiring
- Gaskets and valves
- Sealants, adhesives, and paint
Planes with a high amount of asbestos-containing materials include:
- B-36 Peacemaker
- B-25 Liberator
- B-29 Superfortress
- B-47 Stratojet
- B-52 Stratofortress
- B-58 Hustler
- F-104 Starfighter
- KC-135 Stratotanker
- SR-71 Blackbird
- U-2 Spyplane
Despite the Air Force’s efforts to remove asbestos-containing products from its planes, many service members were already exposed and are now at risk mesothelioma.
Barracks and Bases
Aircraft were not the only assets where the USAF used asbestos. Their ground facilities, from hangars to family housing, were heavily built using asbestos-containing products.
Asbestos-containing products on Air Force bases included:
- Bricks and fireplace construction
- Floor and ceiling tiles
- Furnace, boiler, and pipe wrap
- Heating systems
- Insulation, drywall, and paint
- Masonry and concrete powder
- Roofing shingles, and sheets
- Siding and stucco products
These materials were used throughout Air Force bases, putting both service members and their loved ones at risk of exposure to the dangerous mineral.
Asbestos on Air Force barracks and bases could be found in:
- Administration offices
- Family housing
- Maintenance facilities
- Mess halls
While the use of ACM led many Air Force members and their loved ones to develop mesothelioma, there is compensation available for veterans in need.