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Asbestos Exposure:  A Veteran Hazard?

 
America is proud of those who have had the courage and made the sacrifices to serve in the United States Military. Unfortunately, as we know all too well, many veterans today still deal with mental and physical disorders as a result of their military service. These ailments range from mild to extreme and some are better known than others. One example of a lesser known ailment veterans encounter are that related to toxic exposures. During the course of all United States conflict, and even in peacetime, military servicemen and women have often been exposed to hazardous substances. One of the more common toxins that still affect veterans even today is asbestos.

 

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral with a fibrous consistency. Even thousands of years ago, ancient civilizations found that asbestos possessed a unique capability to prevent temperature transfer and the ability to insulate. Therefore, by the time WWII and the Vietnam War came around, asbestos was being used in thousands of industrial compounds for these qualities. Among the more common uses of asbestos was within military infrastructure. Asbestos was used in thousands of different products encountered every day by military servicemen and women. Asbestos could be found in naval ships and shipyards, aircraft constructions, and nearly any compound that required a resistance to heat and fire.

 

In the late 1970s, official scientific evidence began to surface about the true hazards of asbestos. Asbestos fibers were microscopic, but extremely durable. When asbestos fibers were inhaled, they stuck to internal tissue which surrounds the lungs and abdominal cavity. Over time, these fibers irritate the tissue causing plaques to form on the surface of this tissue, causing respiratory problems. Even more harmful is that these plaques can eventually lay the groundwork for the rare and aggressive cancer mesothelioma.

 

Unfortunately, it was not until after many naval and other military personnel were exposed to asbestos that the truth of its potential hazard surfaced. Symptoms of asbestos-related illness may not manifest for 20-50 years following exposure, making the symptoms difficult to relate to asbestos exposure, which likely occurred many years before. If you or a loved one knowingly worked with asbestos, you should closely monitor your respiratory health and consult a physician well-versed in asbestos-related disease. Early detection of asbestos related health disorders can help doctors in identifying the best possible treatment options for you.