Asbestos Exposure Risks for Those in the US Armed Forces

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Mesothelioma & Asbestos Published on January 29, 2021 and updated on March 15, 2022.

navy shipYou have probably heard about how common asbestos was for much of the 20th century. It was quite common in the U.S. military. In fact, every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces used asbestos-containing materials when building military vehicles, such as tanks, aircraft and trucks. Asbestos-containing products were also used in the construction of many buildings.

Below, learn more about the risks of asbestos exposure for servicemembers. If you served in the U.S. Armed Forces and have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related medical condition, you may be eligible for compensation. The government either knew or should have known of the dangers of asbestos.

The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl has an extensive history of representing asbestos victims and recovering compensation on their behalf. Our Maryland mesothelioma attorneys have obtained numerous multi-million-dollar verdicts on behalf of our asbestos clients.

An initial consultation is free and there is no obligation to take legal action.

How Those in the Navy May Have Been Exposed

Unfortunately, there was an extremely high risk for asbestos exposure for those in the U.S. Navy, as ships were built with many asbestos-containing products. Many of the military veterans who file asbestos legal claims have a Navy service record.

Asbestos-containing products could be nearly everywhere on a ship, from the front to the back. Here are some of the many examples of asbestos-containing products on U.S. Navy ships:

Pipe Insulation

Pipes were used to carry steam and cold water throughout ships. The insulation on these pipes often contained a felt wrapping composed of somewhere between five and 50 percent asbestos. Repair work could easily cause asbestos fibers to become airborne, exposing everyone in the area to asbestos.


These were also often constructed with asbestos-containing materials. Those who worked on these valves, such as pipefitters and boiler operators, were regularly exposed to asbestos. Unfortunately, regular disassembly of the valves was required to replace gaskets and old packing.

The risk for asbestos exposure was particularly high for those involved in building ships. Components often needed to be sanded down to fit together, causing asbestos fibers to be released into the air.

Asbestos Exposure Risks in the Army

Those who served in the U.S. Army were at risk for asbestos exposure because the buildings they were in were often constructed using asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos was often an ingredient in cement, roofing and flooring. Even though the Army stopped using these materials in new construction late in the 1970s, it was still in old installations.

Exposure for Those in the US Coast Guard

The exposure risks for those in the U.S. Coast Guard are like the risks for those in the Navy. The ships these servicemembers were on were full of asbestos-containing materials. Ropes used around the ship were often woven with asbestos fibers. Housing structures and buildings on U.S. Coast Guard bases were also full of asbestos-containing materials.

Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

While the military has phased out the use of asbestos, some of the places they go are still using asbestos-containing materials. For example, war-torn countries like Iraq and Afghanistan still use low-cost materials that often contain asbestos to rebuild. The use of asbestos has few if any regulations in these countries. Service members traveling in these areas could easily breathe in these fibers, as they are released due to explosions or simply from buildings being built or repaired.

Asbestos in the Vietnam War

Unfortunately, asbestos-containing materials were used in virtually all military vehicles, such as tanks, aircraft, jeeps and trucks. According to statistics, the U.S. used an average of about 700,000 tons of asbestos per year between 1964 and 1975, just 100,000 tons short of the all-time high of 803,000 tons in 1973.

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