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Asbestos exposure affected veterans in Ohio and Cincinnati during WWII. Navy personnel were at high risk. Diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma surfaced decades later. Legal rights, awareness, and regular check-ups are crucial for their well-being.

Contributed by Cristina Johnson,

Asbestos Ships Organization

During the last century, the U.S. armed forces prevalently used asbestos as the WWII war effort needed low-priced materials to mass-produce military equipment quickly. Deemed a 鈥渕iracle material,鈥 asbestos abounded in the markets, and manufacturers wanted to make the most of its versatility and low price. Nobody considered the health risks of including asbestos in products destined to insulate military property like aircraft, vehicles, engine rooms, sleeping barracks, mess halls, ships, and shipyards.

The growing number of toxic exposure cases among veterans today shows the many unseen health dangers they faced during service, among them asbestos exposure. The consequences of having been affected by the dangerous asbestos fibers may shadow many veterans鈥 health now as they enter a stage of life where keeping healthy might be challenging.

Asbestos was present in most military bases throughout the States

Ships needed insulation from bow to stern while facing battles out on the oceans. Hence, the Navy exploited asbestos the most, and Navy personnel of naval vessels built before the 1980s were at an outstandingly high risk of asbestos exposure. However, this doesn鈥檛 exclude other military bases from being a potential source of asbestos contamination. It is why asbestos exposure is still an issue for all veterans who might have the toxic fibers in their lungs, including those among the , as well as聽.

Ohio is home to , the country’s most extensive Air Force military base. It employed 50000 people accommodated in its over 300 facilities at the peak of the World War II. The  was initially called Youngstown Air Force Base in the 1950s and defended the north-central United States. The installation also hosts a Navy Operational Support Center and a collocated Marine Corps Reserve detachment home to Navy and Marine Corps reservists.

Asbestos exposure behind veterans鈥 deteriorating health

During military service, former service members faced various threats, toxic exposure being one of them. Veterans might have worked and lived near asbestos materials, unaware of the danger. It’s the culprit of a considerable number of veterans developing asbestos-related diseases decades later. Asbestos can float in the air for hours due to the structure and size of its fibers which are microscopic particles easy to inhale or ingest, making asbestos dust one of the most toxic substances. Once inside the body, these tiny sharp threads cause permanent damage primarily to the lungs and lead to devastating diseases.

One of the most horrible aspects of asbestos-related illnesses is the decades-long latency period between exposure and the first symptoms. Even if veterans may have had no health issues during their service, they鈥檒l learn the effects of asbestos exposure only over time when they are diagnosed with conditions stemming from it, like asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, or other severe respiratory diseases.

The fight  for health and well-being

Although though decades have passed since the armed forces overly used asbestos, veterans who were in contact with it during service now have to fight for their health. Many must deal with the stark reality that besides affecting them physically and psychologically, asbestos diseases shorten their life and steal precious time from their families. 

With  for deaths related to asbestos exposure, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and certain lung cancers, veterans should call the doctor without delay for an appointment. Given that early detection can improve treatment results and may add years to life, they must proactively care for their health through:

  • Regular health check-ups: Periodic medical examinations and openly discussing military service and possible asbestos exposure are crucial. Inhaled asbestos fibers affect the lungs first, so veterans should request chest X-rays or CT scans and pulmonary function tests (also known asthe breathing test). These tests can reveal any damage caused by the asbestos fibers and are a reliable diagnostic procedure for benign and malignant asbestos-related diseases.
  • Learning about their legal rights: Veterans who know they鈥檝e worked in an asbestos-contaminated environment during their service or those who suspect they鈥檝e been exposed should know their rights and options. Legal avenues and compensation programs are available to help vets injured by asbestos exposure through and VA .
  • Promoting awareness: Veterans can play a pivotal role in educating and raising awareness by sharing their knowledge and experiences about asbestos exposure. By being open, they can make sure that others who protected our nation are informed.

Besides expressing our gratitude to veterans, we also have a responsibility to help protect their well-being. Awareness of asbestos exposure is an essential part of this responsibility. By informing about this still lurking danger, we can ensure that those who served receive the care and support they rightly deserve.

About the author:Cristina Johnson is a Navy veteran advocate for , a nonprofit whose primary mission is to raise awareness and educate veterans about the dangers of asbestos exposure on Navy ships and assist them in navigating the VA claims process. For more information, please visit our page.

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