Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Veterans at Risk of Mesothelioma

* Veterans at Risk of Mesothelioma

    Up until the 1980s, every branch of the United States military extensively used asbestos-containing products during construction, mainly for insulation purposes. Despite evidence and knowledge of the chemical's hazardous health effects, the military heavily used asbestosfrom the 1930s through the mid-1970s, especially in naval ships and shipyards. Each military division steadily decreased usage of asbestos materials as evidence of the compound's damaging capabilities emerged - but not before hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of veterans were exposed.
    According to a shocking statistic, more than 30 percent of Americans plagued with mesothelioma (an aggressive cancer that attacks the internal lining of the lungs, heart, and abdomen) were exposed to asbestos in some form of military service. Prolonged asbestos exposure is also known to cause lung cancer and asbestosis, both potentially fatal diseases. Veteranswho served from the World War II era through the Vietnam War hold the greatest risk of exposure to the toxic substance. Furthermore, naval veterans have an increased risk of developing asbestos-related diseases due to the Navy's widespread application of asbestos-containing materials on ships and shipyards.
    Military personnel (and contracted civilians) who worked with asbestos include the following:
    Naval personnel who worked below deck have a heightened risk of asbestos exposure since the heat-resistant material was extensively used in engine and boiler rooms. But all sailors aboard Navy ships were exposed to asbestos, as it was used in navigation rooms, mess halls, and sleeping quarters.
    Although the Navy chooses not to compile statistics in regard to how many naval veterans have died from asbestos cancer and other related diseases, other sources of statistical data reveal 26 percent of mesothelioma patients are sailors and shipyard workers. Navy veteransalso account for 16 percent of asbestos-related lung cancer and 13 percent of severe respiratory diseases.
    Historical records and striking evidence render this issue resoundingly clear - countless veterans across every branch were unnecessarily exposed to asbestos during military service. Many veterans survived the horrid conditions of war, dodging deadly statistics only to later discover their noble service led to the development of a fatal disease. Today, many veterans are suffering from asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestosislung cancer, and mesothelioma. With symptoms ranging from respiratory problems to abdominal pain, diagnosing diseases caused by asbestos exposure can be troublesome and misleading.

 - Mesothelioma & Navy Veterans

    From the 1930s through the mid-1970s the U.S. Navy utilized asbestos-containing products in its ships and shipyards, principally for the mineral's extreme fire resistance. For a time the Navy even mandated the use of asbestos, employing the toxic substance in more than 300 materials for construction and repair aboard warships and overhaul at shipyards.
    Asbestos was particularly used in insulation and for any products located in engine rooms, where heat resistance is of utmost importance. But virtually no section of a naval ship built before the 1970s is free of asbestos, as it was used in fire, engine, and boiler rooms, as well as mess halls, sleep quarters, and navigation rooms. In addition, products such as cables, gaskets, valves, adhesives and many others contained asbestos.
    As early as 1939 the Navy's Surgeon General was aware that asbestosis was caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos. The general's report covered the health conditions at theBrooklyn Navy Yard and revealed the yard's pipe covers and insulators exposed workers to the caustic asbestos dust.
    Despite this knowledge, the Navy continued usage of asbestos for nearly four decades, proving that industrial production received higher regard than human safety.
    Naval personnel working in the construction, repair, demolition, and renovation of ships and buildings were exposed to asbestos, many in high quantities for extended periods of time. Sailors stationed aboard these asbestos-laden warships were often showered in asbestos dust. Many recall sleeping in bunks below asbestos-covered pipes and having to shake the dusty material of their bunks daily. Due to its jagged atomic structure, asbestos is very brittle and breaks into particles readily. The tiny particles are effortlessly inhaled adhere to the internal lining of the lungs, abdomen, and heart.
    Close quarters aboard ships and shipyards inevitably led to many asbestos materials being struck during normal operations, which led to the inhalation of the fragile substance and attachment to clothing. Personnel routinely carried asbestos dust home on their clothes, exposing family and friends to the toxic compound.
    Since the mid-70s, remarkably fewer amounts of asbestos-containing products are used on new ships. But in the early 1990s, the Navy began selling dozens of obsolete ships for scrap materials. Unfortunately, the dismantling of these toxic ships often takes place in depressed ports, where workers are not trained to handle asbestos and no protective measures are taken.
    Surprisingly, some naval ships still contain asbestos, as the material may be imbedded in brakes, clutches, gaskets, and older construction materials. Regrettably, it seems that until firm and enforced regulations are implemented on the usage of this deadly substance, asbestos will persist to infect and damage yet another generation of innocent victims.
    The Veterans Assistance Department at Asbestos.com is available to provide free assistance to you and can help you with your Navy Veteran’s Assistance Claim.

 - Mesothelioma & Air Force Veterans

    The United States Air Force (USAF) was created as its own independent branch of the United States’ Armed Forces in 1947. The USAF is responsible for the peace and security of America and its holdings. Their mission has grown over the last part of the century to include not only air space, but outer space and cyberspace as well.
    Asbestos has been found in many USAF installations around the country as well as planes throughout history. Installations with old on-base housing or administrative buildings were common locations where asbestos was found. Mesothelioma, a very uncommon form of cancer that affects the protective lining of vital organs in the body such as the lungs and abdomen, is primarily caused by asbestos exposure.

Air Force Bases with Asbestos

    A number of government studies have been conducted to investigate the use of asbestos on Air Force bases and nearly all of them found presence of the deadly material in base housing. Air Force and government-backed studies at Buckley, Ellsworth, Tinker, Lowry and Williams Air Force Bases as well as Burns Radar Station have found asbestos in their buildings.
    A 2002 CDC investigation at the Burns Radio Station found asbestos-containing materials (ACM) in floor tile, pipe wrapping, vinyl flooring, ceiling material, transite wall insulation, drywall and stucco in on-base housing at these bases. Some insulation contained 10 to 60 percent amosite and chrysotile asbestos, wallboard samples contained 10 to 25 percent chrysotile asbestos and tile and mastic samples contained about 5 to 8 percent chrysotile asbestos. Air Force servicepersons and their families have likely been exposed to the hazardous asbestos fibers as a result.
    Recently, however, the Air Force has taken an active stance in the reduction of asbestos in its many bases around the globe. Bases are now required to conduct asbestos surveys and develop Asbestos Management and Operating Plans to properly abate any ACM found on the base. The Air Force also supplies installation staff with the proper education materials to accurately recognize any ACM on the base, especially in older on-base housing where asbestos is very prevalent.

Asbestos Products in Air Force Airplanes

    Since World War II, asbestos has been found on airplanes in the U. S. Armed Forces. Many Air Force veterans who served as crewmen or mechanics were unaware of the toxic effects of asbestos that they may have been exposed to during their service.
    Asbestos was used as a cheap and effective way of repairing engines on World War II aircraft. Technical Sergeant Tony Ventura discussed in his memoirs a fix for oil leaks he created for the engines found in B-29 bombers, “My suggestion was to wrap the 36 hose fittings on each engine with metallic inserted asbestos. The piece of asbestos would act as a heat baffle. The cost per cylinder would be around 50 cents. I experimented with one cylinder to see if this 50 cents would save a very expensive engine.”
    A Huey pilot from the Vietnam War commented on how an asbestos head shield covering the engine alleviated the fears of pilots from being shot down from infrared surface-to-air missiles, stating “The quick response of providing asbestos shields for our aircraft helped enormously in overcom[ing] the fear of these missiles.”
    Asbestos has been used on different parts of airplanes for decades, mainly for fire prevention due to its resistance to heat, corrosion and friction. Aircraft such as the C-130, SR-71, P-38, B-29 and the UH-1 are known to have contained asbestos in these areas:
  • Brakes
  • Cockpit heater system
  • Heat shields for engines
  • Torque valves
  • Gaskets
  • Electrical wires insulation
  • Insulation in the cargo bays of cargo planes
    Because of its extreme resistance to fire and its ready availability, asbestos was a cheap and cost-effective material. The protective suits issued to many crash-control crewmen during World War II and the Vietnam War commonly contained asbestos materials, easily enabling the crewmen to inhale the toxic fibers.

Resources for Air Force Veterans

    After locating numerous areas in housing and installations where asbestos was used, the Air Force has actively taken the initiative to remove it. Since the 1980s, the Air Force has created regulations that help prevent asbestos use and manages any existing bases where it is found. Air Force Instructions (AFI) such as the Occupational and Environmental Safety, Fire Protection and Health Program (OSPHA) and the Air Force Facility Asbestos Management have been enacted in an effort to minimize exposure of all building occupants to asbestos fibers.
    The Mesothelioma Center offers help to veterans through its Veterans Assistance Department. The Department of Veterans Affairs covers conditions related to asbestos and mesothelioma, but will only provide benefits when proper proof of exposure during service is provided. A Veterans Benefit Counselor will be able to assist you in fulfilling the necessary documentation to obtain maximum benefits.

 - Mesothelioma & Army Veterans

    While many people were exposed to asbestos during the years when it was in widespread use, it is doubtful that any one group was hit harder than servicemen. Asbestos was widely used in many materials, and for those that served in the military, it was likely that they experienced asbestos exposure day and night. Unlike those who were exposed to asbestos in the industrial setting, who worked around the materials and then headed home each day, military personnel worked, slept and ate in areas with asbestos containing materials.

How Members of the Army Were Exposed to Asbestos

    Prior to the late 1970s, all branches of the military used asbestos containing materials throughout their barracks. Asbestos was a popular material for a variety of reasons. As a naturally occurring mineral it was readily available, and inexpensive. It has unique properties that make it both fireproof and heat resistant. These attributes made it an excellent choice for insulation. For decades the buildings that were constructed and the areas that soldiers lived and worked in were filled with asbestos fibers. Any soldier that served in the United States Army from the early 1940s through the late 1970s may have been exposed to asbestos at some point in their military career.
    One branch of the military that suffered from higher levels of asbestos exposure than any others was the Navy. Asbestos was used extensively throughout Navy vessels. Because these large ships provided base and transportation for more than their own men, however, any branch of the military may have suffered from asbestos exposure because of these ships. The marines often used Navy aircraft carriers as a base from which to fly their planes, and the "Magic Carpet" operation at the end of World War II, which was a plan to return all members of the military home as quickly as possible, relied heavily on Navy ships as a part of their transportation system.

Dangers of Asbestos Exposure

    Asbestos exposure can lead to one of two health problems, both extremely serious.Asbestosis is a chronic inflammation of the lungs that eventually leads to respiratory failure. Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of asbestos cancer that is difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat. Both of these disease are caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos exposure is insidious, and often occurs without the knowledge of those who are effected. It is only decades later when the veteran develops an asbestos-related illness that they realize that they may have been exposed while serving their country. The threat of asbestos exposure is a very real problem for army veterans. It is estimated that 30 percent of those who suffer from mesothelioma developed the disease after exposure to asbestos in the military.
    Doctors are not able to pinpoint the amount of asbestos exposure that can lead to the development of health problems. While some studies seem to indicate that longer periods of exposure or heavy exposure increase the risk of asbestosis or mesothelioma, other studies have shown that even short term exposure can cause significant health problems. In short, no one is sure how much exposure is too much. What is known is that Army veterans are a group that was at high risk of exposure.

Filing a Claim and the VA

    Military veterans in all branches, including the army, cannot file a claim against the military division they served with, as the government is not held responsible for the asbestos-contaminated materials that were manufactured by various companies. It is these various asbestos manufacturers, who supplied the contaminated materials to the government, that are held responsible for the injuries incurred by veterans. Many workers in the private sector have been able to recover money to help cover health care costs and perhaps some for compensation, and veterans have this same option. An Army veteran can also appeal for coverage or benefits through the Veterans Administration.
    Part of the problem that army veterans face when attempting to collect veterans benefits is the burden of proof that is placed on these servicemen. To show that they suffered from asbestos exposure during their time in the military, they must effectively prove that they were not exposed to asbestos at any other time. Consulting with an experienced attorney that has handled asbestos claims for other members of the military can provide you with the guidance that you need before attempting to secure veterans benefits.

 - Mesothelioma & Coast Guard Veterans

    The Coast Guard is responsible for safeguarding the ports and harbors of the United States. While the Coast Guard is currently under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security, it can be moved to the Department of Defense. In the past, the Coast Guard has been instrumental in wars around the globe. During the Second World War, the Coast Guard patrolled the waters of the Northern Atlantic Ocean and engaged in rescue missions after German ships and submarines sunk ships belonging to the United States.
    The USCGC, a Coast Guard vessel, took the first German prisoners for the United States when it sunk a German ship off the Carolina coast. The Coast Guard also discovered the first invasion of German soldiers on U.S. soil. This discovery led to their immediate capture. In the Second World War the Coast Guard sunk twelve German and two Japanese submarines and captured two German ships. During the pivotal invasion of Normandy, 60 Coast Guard cutters stayed off shore at the five beach locations where Allied forces were to come ashore. They served as a search and rescue crew and ultimately saved 400 lives. During the Korean War the Coast Guard arranged for the evacuation of the Korean peninsula.

How Were Members of the Coast Guard Exposed to Asbestos?

    Members of the Coast Guard, like other members of the military, were exposed to asbestosdue to the extensive use of asbestos-containing materials. The military, at one point, even mandated the use of asbestos. Asbestos was highly regarded because of its durability as well as its ability to withstand heat and flame. Military barracks and offices used asbestos-containing products as insulation, in duct work, water pipes and the ceiling and floor tiles. It is estimated that 30 percent of people diagnosed with mesothelioma are veterans in some branch of the military.
    For members of the Coast Guard, there are additional concerns about asbestos exposure. The ships on which these men spent so much of their lives were filled with asbestos containing materials. The areas around the engine and boiler rooms used asbestos containing insulation and reflective material to contain the heat. The ropes used throughout the naval ships were woven with asbestos fibers, and the covering on pipes that ran through the ships were coated with asbestos. Not only did members of the Coast Guard spend their entire work day surrounded by asbestos, but their off duty hours were spent surrounded by it as well.

What are the Hazards of Asbestos Exposure?

    Asbestos exposure can lead to an increased risk of developing cancer. Additionally, those who develop cancer as a result of asbestos exposure often suffer from rapid tumor growth. It is thought that exposure to asbestos switches off the gene in the body that controls and halts tumor production. People that are exposed to asbestos may also develop asbestosis ormesothelioma. Asbestosis is a chronic and progressive disease of the lungs that eventually results in respiratory failure. There is no cure for asbestosis, although doctors can treat the symptoms with supplemental oxygen.
    Mesothelioma is a fast spreading form of cancer that attacks the protective layers surrounding the body's organs. Mesothelioma most commonly develops around the lungs, but it can also form in the area surrounding the heart or stomach. Mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose and treat. It has an extremely high mortality rate. Both mesothelioma and asbestosis are complicated by the fact that they commonly develop several decades after asbestos exposure occurred. Because of this it can be difficult to determine when and where the exposure to asbestos occurred.

How Does the Military Deal with Asbestos-Related Claims?

    Members of the military who were exposed to asbestos may face some challenges in receiving compensation for their health concerns if they go it alone. As a member of the military, you are not permitted to seek compensation for injury from the government through a court of law, instead, like private-sector employees, veterans file a claim against the asbestos manufacturer that made the contaminated material which caused the asbestos-related disease. This process is much easier and more successful with the assistance of an experience mesothelioma or asbestos lawyer.
    If you suffered from asbestos exposure as a member of any branch of the military, you can also seek recourse by applying for benefits through the Department of Veteran Affairs. The process of applying for benefits does not, however, guarantee that you will receive them. An asbestos or mesothelioma attorney can help you seek compensation for your health concerns is by filing suit against the manufactures of the various asbestos-containing materials that led to your exposure. Because of the extensive use of asbestos in the military setting this can become a tedious process, as the court requires that the injured party specifically state who is responsible for the harm received. An experienced mesothelioma attorney can help guide you through the process of applying for VA benefits and filing suit against companies that manufactured and supplied the military with asbestos containing materials.

 - Mesothelioma & Marine Corps Veterans

    While the Marine Corps is the smallest branch of the United States Armed Forces, they maintain a global presence at military bases around the world. Originally formed as naval infantry, the Marine Corps is the oldest branch of the military, tracing its origins back to 1775 in the beginnings of the American Revolutionary War.
    The Marine Corps is known to be the most professional branch of the Armed Forces. Able to deploy a self-sufficient fighting force, Marines can rapidly deploy anywhere in the world. Whether a pilot, soldier or sailor, Marines are some of the most highly-trained and premier fighters in the world.

Marine Corps Presence on Naval Ships

    Between World War II and the Vietnam War, asbestos was mandated for use on all naval ships of the U.S. Armed Forces. Because of the close relationship between the Marines Corps and the Navy, many Marines served on Navy vessels during their service. As a consequence of this toxic exposure, many veterans contracted mesothelioma cancer.
    Marines often transported their soldiers to combat on amphibious ships. During the era between WWII and the Vietnam War, 1,200 LSTs or Amphibious Landing Ships were built for the Navy. LSTs were vital in bringing Marines to areas of conflict. The U.S. Navy operates a large number of amphibious warfare ships in support of the Marines’ assault role.
    Marines provided flight crews for Navy aircraft carriers and were subsequently exposed to the dangers of asbestos. Marine aviators and Marines who served on fighting vessels during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War were just as likely to be exposed to asbestos as their Navy counterparts. Many Marines were probably exposed to asbestos while serving on these ships, whether at sea or in port during repair or overhaul.

Potential Areas of Asbestos Exposure

    Not only were Marines at risk to the dangers of going into combat, but also at risk of asbestos exposure during service. Marine ships were no different from Navy ships in the respect that asbestos was used as an insulator and fireproofing material throughout most vessels.
    While asbestos was widely used on naval vessels, it was also located in military installations. Even after the use of asbestos products was officially prohibited on military bases, flooring tiles, ceiling tiles and other asbestos-containing materials were left to expose soldiers. The brakes, gaskets and insulations found on military vehicles typically contained asbestos as well. Because Marines are deployed to their own bases as well as Army, Navy and Air Force sites, the risk for exposure is broad. 
    Many Marines during World War II and the years following were transported on Navy troop ships. Due to the hazardous nature of asbestos, this toxic mineral had to be removed from the myriad of pipes that ran throughout the entire ship. Enlisted men were ordered to remove various asbestos materials without any protection, leading to high amounts of asbestos exposure.

 - Mesothelioma and Merchant Marine Veterans

    Considered by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to be the "Fourth Arm of Defense," the Merchant Marines have been an integral part of the United States' war efforts since World War II. The Merchant Marine is encompassed by the U.S. Maritime Commission, which consists of U.S.-built, owned, flagged and crewed vessels.
    During wartime, the Merchant Marine is considered a Navy auxiliary and is used to transport military supplies and troops to battle. Those who operated the ships are termed Merchant Mariners and the officers are commissioned into the U.S. Maritime Service, allowing them to be considered Veterans. In WWII, Merchant Marines had the highest casualty rate of any service branch; one serviceperson was killed for every 26 in service.

Asbestos on Merchant Marine Ships

    Asbestos has been a commonly used material on ships since it was first discovered to be an effective insulator against heat and fire. Asbestos exposure has led to the development of potentially deadly diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Numerous studies have documented the harmful effects of asbestos on Merchant Marines and its increased rate of respiratory diseases.
    In a study that included 1,767 marine inspectors who had served in the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) between 1942 and 1970, the inspectors had the highest mortality rate when compared to any other officers in the USCG. The researchers in the study found that USCG marine inspectors were exposed to a variety of toxic chemicals such as asbestos, and as a result they were more prone to develop a damaging disease.
    Liberty Ships were the primary vessels used to transport war materials to places of conflict. These ships required tons of asbestos-based materials that were contained in boards, pipes, decks, ducts, insulation, gaskets, cords, and heating systems. Because of the high asbestos content that was used to construct these ships, their scrap metal is worthless when the cost of disposing theasbestos is considered.
    A 1990 study of long-term U.S. merchant marine seamen analyzed the continuing effects of asbestos that was present on ships. Of the 3,324 chest radiographs that were reviewed, about one-third were found to have pleural or parenchymal abnormalities. Engine crewmen were in particular danger, with 391 of the 920 (42.5 percent) having abnormalities.
    The study displayed the long-term effects that asbestos had on the seamen. The majority of the seamen in the cohort were exposed more than 40 years prior. This subgroup carried the highest percentage of abnormalities in the study, with 38.5 percent noting differences in their radiological scans. The engine room crewmen were also highly susceptible to experiencing irregularities. Approximately 47 percent developed abnormalities more than 30 years after initial exposure.

Resources for Veterans

    In 1987, Shannon J. Wall and the National Maritime Union filed a lawsuit pushing the federal government to designate Merchant Marines who served during WWII as veterans. As a result, President Ronald Reagan created the Ocean Shipping Reform Act in 1988, extending veteran's benefits to Merchant Marines that had served during WWII.
    Previously, Merchant Marines were unable to receive benefits such as the GI Bill that had been extended to other WWII veterans. Recently, in 2007, the U.S. Congress passed House Resolution 23, granting Merchant Marine veterans $1,000 per month in lieu of their lack of benefits between 1946 and 1988.
The Mesothelioma Center offers assistance to veterans when filing a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

 - Mesothelioma & National Guard Veterans

    In 1903, soldiers in citizen "militia" who assisted the Army were given the name of the National Guard. Since then, the National Guard has grown to 27 Divisions, 25 Infantry and two armored with almost a half million currently serving in its ranks. The two components are the Army National Guard (more than 325,000 members) and the Air National Guard (around 106,000 personnel). The National Guard Bureau is a subdivision under the Department of Defense, with a four-star General of the Army or Air Force in command. It is authorized by the U.S. Constitution of the United States, with the motto, "Always Ready, Always There." Almost half of America's 43 presidents have served in the National Guard - 19 in the Army Guard and one (George W. Bush) in the Air Guard.


    The Army National Guard is trained and equipped identically to the U.S. Army, just as the Air National Guard is part of the U.S. Air Force. Both reserve unit personnel must meet the same standards as those who serve full time.
    National Guardsmen can receive the same United States military awards and utilize the same terminology, refer to the same ranks, and apply the same insignia. As of August 2007, National Guardsmen have 24 months between deployments of no more than 24 months, although this policy may differ by state, and some personnel even serve in more of a full-time capacity, with the Active Guard and Reserve. The National Guard can be mobilized by presidential order or by any governor during a state of emergency in the area in which they serve. Individual mobilizations are not enacted except for Temporary Duty Assignments.


    National Guardsmen achievements are known internationally for their peacekeeping missions in Haiti, Somalia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Kosovo, and Bosnia. They have assisted in recovery efforts after natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, provided security for stateside Olympic Games, and responded to anti-Vietnam War protests, such as the Ohio Army National Guard did at Kent State University in 1970. The National Guard has also been mobilized during times of chaos and rioting: In 1963, the New York National Guard served during race riots, and the California Army National Guard assisted during the Watts Riots during the following year; both restored order and provided security.
    When Los Angeles riots erupted in 1992, the California National Guard again maintained a presence to discourage violence while re-establishing peace. The blizzards of 2007 found National Guardsmen from eight states delivering food and necessities to stranded people, shoveling snow, feeding starving cattle, and rescuing drivers. In the Iraq War, personnel from the National Guard accounted for 43 percent of the forces, and in the Afghanistan War, members accounted for 55 percent. These statistics also claimed that those 183,366 National Guard reservists left behind 300,000 dependents.

The Future

    Currently the Army National Guard is undergoing a re-organization. They are in the planning stage of creating 28 brigade combat teams and 78 support brigades. This will be an addendum to the U.S. Army's transformation plan. The result will be smaller units; brigades will have 3,000-4,000 soldiers instead of 15,000 soldiers, which should allow for improved communication and cohesiveness.
    Former President Andrew Jackson insisted that independent militia, in conjunction with regular army personnel, could be effective when employed as a team. The War of 1812 proved that, especially on the defensive, organization and co-operation were key to achieving success. Those who currently serve, or who have served, in the U.S. National Guard, should take pride in knowing that they've shown President Jackson to be correct; when called to duty, Guardsmen are "always ready and always there." Regardless of where they may be needed, and regardless of the numbers of dependents left at home, they've continued to put their lives on hold in order to travel to wherever help is needed. Doing so is a very unique and self-sacrificing act, one that may not be acknowledged often enough, let alone commended. Unfortunately, that very same selflessness that puts a National Guardsman's life in danger also may have placed his health at risk.


    Responding to emergency calls, National Guard personnel often find themselves in perilous situations of the aftermath of bombs, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes and floods. They thus must enter buildings that are heavily damaged or destroyed, on search and rescue missions. Even with protective gear, Guardsmen may inadvertently inhale or swallow microscopic amounts of asbestos dust and fibers that escaped when asbestos sealant was damaged in the tragedy. Once inside the Guardsman's lungs or stomach, the tiny particles can become wedged in tissues and remain there for decades, all the while causing physical reactions that can eventually result in serious conditions. Diseases involving the lungs and gastrointestinal tract, asbestosismesothelioma, and various cancers are all possible due to asbestos exposure 20 or 50 years ago. In fact, their long latency periods mean that asbestos exposure problems are only now beginning to appear. It is therefore very important that any National Guardsman who has noticed unusual symptoms see their doctor as soon as possible.

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