Military Buildings and Asbestos Exposure

Most Americans are proud of the bravery and dedication exhibited by the men and women serving in the United States military - and rightfully so. These service members stand ready to risk their own lives to keep the rest of us safe.

When we imagine the dangers faced by military personnel, it is natural to first think of enemy bullets, tanks, airplanes, and other weapons of war. It’s probably not so common to worry about asbestos exposure. However, in reality, many military veterans have indeed been exposed to asbestos. Some have already developed mesothelioma and other diseases as a result. Others are still at risk.

In this article, we will discuss military buildings and asbestos exposure.

The Military’s Vast Array of Buildings

If you have served in the military, you’re well aware of the vast diversity of buildings owned or managed by the military. A military base, for example, functions entirely as its own community. People who have not served in the military might be surprised by the breadth of available products and services. These include:

  • Barracks and other homes in which people live
  • Grocery store
  • Post office
  • Retail outlets
  • Dental, medical, and veterinary facilities
  • Movie theaters, fast food locations, vehicle repair centers
  • Schools

And this list is far from comprehensive. Unfortunately, through the years, some buildings owned by the military were constructed with products containing asbestos.

Potential Asbestos Exposure

According to Veterans Today, millions of service members served in the military during times that asbestos was widely used and suffered potential exposure to the dangerous mineral. The publication reports that the Navy alone used an estimated 25 million tons of asbestos between 1930 and 1978. Sadly, Veterans Today further concludes that a whopping 30 percent of all Americans diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos while serving in the military.

While much of the Navy exposure occurred in shipyards and on ships, people serving in the army and air force often lived or worked on bases where they were routinely exposed to buildings containing asbestos. Moreover, many civilians lived and worked on these bases and similarly could have been exposed. Some of the products containing asbestos include the following:

  • Concrete
  • Paints
  • Asphalt coatings
  • Flooring materials 
  • Roofing materials
  • Pipes

In fact, at one time, a cement product was made specifically for use on U.S. military installations that contained 5 percent chrysotile asbestos.

What if I served in the military decades ago?

Unfortunately, people who served long ago may be most at risk. First, asbestos was widely used at that time, so there was a greater level of exposure. Secondly, it can take decades for a person exposed to asbestos to develop mesothelioma. Thus, even if you served decades ago, you are still at risk. 

Additionally, for people who served even after the U.S. military stopped using asbestos in its buildings, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledges that service members serving in Iraq or other countries in the Middle East or Southeast Asia may have been exposed to asbestos being released into the air when old buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Call with Questions

Unfortunately, in past decades, many military service members and civilians working beside them were exposed to asbestos. For some, this exposure has led to disease and sometimes death. If you or a loved one has gotten sick or has questions about exposure and what steps need to be taken, please call us for a free consultation. The experienced asbestos and mesothelioma attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield have been helping Oregon asbestos victims for years. We take great pleasure in assisting veterans and believe that we will all be safer if wrongdoers are held accountable for the harm they cause.


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