Mesothelioma is a devastating and aggressive lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a material that was commonly used across the United States during the 20th century in construction and manufacturing – including in the Marines. Unfortunately, during most of the 20th century, the dangers of asbestos were not known, and many Americans were exposed to toxic asbestos fibers.
Those Americans included veterans of the United States Marine Corps and many people who were exposed to asbestos developed mesothelioma later in life. Every day in the United States, more than 1,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions. More than one in three are veterans.
Marine Corps veterans are at a specifically high risk for having been exposed to asbestos not only because of the presence of asbestos on Marine Corps bases but also on Navy ships where Marines may have served. When a veteran develops mesothelioma or another asbestos-related condition because of asbestos exposure during their service, he or she may be eligible to receive compensation.
Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma
Asbestos is a chemical compound used during the 20th century in a variety of settings, including construction and manufacturing. In most applications, asbestos is a fibrous material used for insulation, coating, and as an ingredient in components that need to withstand high heat. Generally, asbestos is cheap to manufacture, rigid, heat-resistant, fire-resistant, and waterproof Thus, it was an attractive material to the Marine Corps, which used asbestos on bases and in military equipment.
Asbestos is composed of fibers woven together to create a mesh-like material, and when exposed to air, those fibers break loose and float through open air. Before 1980, asbestos was not known to be toxic, but after 1980, the general public became aware that asbestos is highly toxic to humans, as it causes cancer. In many cases, asbestos fibers were unknowingly inhaled by people who were exposed to asbestos without protective equipment. Those fibers in turn remained in their lungs for many years, causing mesothelioma to develop even decades after the original exposure.
After the American public found out about asbestos toxicity, a massive investigation began, and it was eventually revealed that asbestos manufacturers knew of the risks associated with the product and continued to manufacture and sell it. Thousands of lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers have been filed since then, and millions of dollars have been paid to mesothelioma victims and their families. Even though the Armed Forces cannot be held responsible in the same way, Marine Corps veterans and their families may be able to access compensation for their injuries from multiple sources, including the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Asbestos Toxicity and Mesothelioma
When asbestos fibers are released into the air, they cling onto clothing, skin, hair, and other surfaces, in addition to being directly inhaled. Contact with asbestos fibers and inhalation of asbestos fibers are now known to cause cancers and other devastating conditions. Those conditions include:
- Mesothelioma and other lung cancers
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Colorectal and gastrointestinal cancers
- Throat cancers
- Pleural plaque and thickening
- Ovarian cancer
Exposure to Asbestos in the Marine Corps
The Marine Corps is unlike any other branch in the Armed Forces, as their service spans all types of terrain – Marines serve on the ground, in the sky, and at sea alongside other branches of the military. For that reason, Marine Corps veterans are not only at risk for asbestos exposure by the Marine Corps, but also by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, as Marines frequently work alongside other branches in facilities operated by those branches.
Asbestos on Marine Corps Bases
Within the Marine Corps itself, asbestos was most commonly used on bases and in barracks. Between 1930 and 1980, asbestos was used virtually everywhere in military buildings and equipment. Most commonly, asbestos fibers could be found in drywall, flooring, ceiling tiles, and insulation, but the materials were most dangerous when being exposed to open air and in settings in which they might be disturbed.
On Marine Corps bases, pipes were often exposed in the ceilings of barracks, including in sleeping quarters. The Marine Corps used asbestos as insulation on these pipes, coating them in asbestos materials. When any physical disturbance interacted with those pipe coatings – such as a draft, vibration, or other movement, asbestos fibers broke loose into the air. Those asbestos fibers were inhaled by Marines sleeping below, and in other hours, fell onto beds, clothing, and other materials, remaining indefinitely.
While asbestos was used on the vast majority of open Marine Corps bases during the 20th century, the material is known to have been specifically used on the following sites:
- Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune
- Marine Corps Air Station Yuma
- Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton
- Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow
- Marine Corps Air Station El Toro
- Marine Corps Recruiting Depot Parris Island
In short, any Marine who served between 1930 and 1980 is likely to have been exposed to asbestos at some point during their service – especially those veterans who lived in barracks on a base. If you or a loved one served in the Marine Corps and has now been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related condition, you may be entitled to receive compensation.
Marines on Navy Ships with Asbestos Usage
The United States Navy is the Marine Corps’ “sister service,” as Marines often fight alongside naval officers and are usually transported on Navy ships. Unfortunately, Navy veterans have some of the highest risks for asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, as asbestos materials were used extensively on Navy ships and in shipyards. Any Marine Corps veteran who was transported on a Navy ship or who worked in a Navy shipyard before 1980 is likely to have been exposed to asbestos materials.
Because asbestos is an inexpensive insulator, it was used on Navy ships in rooms containing machinery that could reach high temperatures, such as engine rooms and boiler rooms. In these spaces, often located in the underbelly of a ship, air circulation was minimal and outside air was not freely available. Thus, when asbestos fibers were released into the air, they stayed in the air for longer periods of time as opposed to open spaces with adequate ventilation. Marine Corps veterans who served on board Navy ships in engine rooms are thus at the highest risk for exposure to asbestos.
But otherwise, asbestos could also be found in all areas of a Navy ship constructed before 1980. Because asbestos was fireproof and waterproof, it was a generally ideal material for naval usage, and it could be found in flooring, cladding, drywall, and in sealants and paints used onboard. In the same manner, as Marine Corps barracks, when these materials were disturbed in any way – even in a minor manner – asbestos fibers could break free and contaminate the air supply. More specifically, asbestos is known to be used in the following parts of Navy watercraft:
- Pipe and electrical wiring insulation
- Wall insulation
- Flooring materials
- Ceiling tiles
- Adhesives and filters
- Gaskets and pumps
- Ventilation ducts
Exposure to Asbestos on Military Aircraft
In addition to onboard Navy ships, veterans of the Marine Corps may have been exposed to asbestos in and around military aircraft operated by all branches of the Armed Forces. The military used asbestos on aircraft in a similar manner as it did on ships – because the material was inexpensive, fireproof, and heat-resistant, it had many applications onboard aircraft.
More specifically, asbestos was used in aircraft parts and equipment which include:
- Brakes and brake pads
- Engine shields and cockpit materials
- Fuel line insulation
- Paint, insulation, and coatings
When friction was applied to these parts, asbestos fibers were highly likely to release into the air and cause toxic exposure. Because the Armed Forces were not aware of asbestos toxicity, many Marines who were exposed to asbestos on aircraft were likely not provided with personal protective equipment. Asbestos is known to have been used on almost all types of military aircraft, including bomber planes, fighter jets, tanker jets, and helicopters.
Compensation for Marine Veterans with Mesothelioma
American veterans being exposed to toxic asbestos is a tragedy that should have been avoided entirely. While no amount of money can truly compensate a veteran and his or her family for being diagnosed with a devastating illness such as mesothelioma, there are multiple avenues of recourse available for victims to seek compensation. Our team of attorneys is ready to assist veterans and their families in assessing their eligibility for these compensation sources and pursuing compensation where possible.
Asbestos Trust Funds and Lawsuits
The Marine Corps cannot be sued for asbestos exposure for multiple reasons, but most importantly, no evidence suggests that the Marine Corps was aware of asbestos toxicity when it used the material and exposed service members. Instead, asbestos manufacturers have been held liable for producing and selling asbestos after those manufacturers became aware of the dangers associated with asbestos.
Since the general public has become aware of the actions taken by asbestos manufacturers, thousands of lawsuits have been filed across the country by victims seeking compensation for their injuries. Because so many lawsuits have been filed, many asbestos manufacturers have established trust funds that specifically hold money for mesothelioma victims. Usually, money from asbestos trust funds are offered as settlements in exchange for a promise not to sue an asbestos manufacturer.
However, to access asbestos trust funds, mesothelioma victims must meet specific requirements for eligibility set by each trust fund. Most importantly, to access funds, a victim must be able to show that the manufacturer who set up the trust fund is the manufacturer of the asbestos to which the victim was exposed. That can be an understandably difficult question to answer, but a mesothelioma attorney can assist you in answering it. With specific respect to Marine Corps veterans, military contracting and usage of building supplies is much more documented than in the private sector. If you or a loved one are eligible to access asbestos trust fund money, we can assist you in filing a claim.
VA Benefits and Programs
In response to the large number of veterans being diagnosed with mesothelioma, the federal government has set up many different programs and benefits to assist affected veterans and their families.
All of the programs are designed to provide financial assistance to disabled veterans and their families, and most of them provide monthly disbursements to eligible veterans. To access funding from VA benefits and programs, a qualifying veteran must meet the following requirements:
- Served on active duty and received an honorable discharge
- Diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related condition
- Exposed to asbestos during active military service
These requirements are general, as each of these programs, like asbestos trust funds, carry different requirements for eligibility.
Otherwise, the VA also provides healthcare to veterans through its network of hospitals and clinics. With specific respect to mesothelioma and asbestos-related conditions, the VA has established mesothelioma specialty clinics that offer mesothelioma-specific care to affected veterans. In many cases, VA healthcare is offered at no or low cost.
Get in Touch With a Mesothelioma Lawyer Today
The devastating effects of mesothelioma cannot be understated, and our team understands the impact that asbestos-related conditions have on veterans and their families. We are committed to ensuring that Marine Corps veterans have access to all of the resources to which they may be entitled – including financial compensation.
The first step in seeking compensation for your injuries is to contact an experienced and capable mesothelioma attorney who can assist you in evaluating your eligibility. To get started, contact our office today to set up a free consultation with a member of our team.