Individuals who volunteer to serve in our country’s defense system have throughout our history made some of the greatest sacrifices imaginable and have confronted dangerous situations in all corners of the world. Unfortunately for many of our volunteer service men and women, one of the greatest dangers came from an unexpected source: the heavy use of asbestos in ships, planes, military equipment and lodging. Today we are well aware of the risks that asbestos poses to humans, but for decades those who dedicated their lives to serving our country were exposed to this deadly fiber with no warning about the dangers involved, and thousands of them have developed mesothelioma or lung cancer decades after their service ended.
In addition to the four main branches our country’s military system, some of those most affected by asbestos exposure have been the men and women who enlisted in the United States Coast Guard. Charged with protecting our maritime economy and environment and defending our maritime borders, the Coast Guard has long played an important role in our nation’s defense system. Those who have bravely served in this fifth branch of the armed forces are among the service members who suffered some of the highest levels of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos, given its effectiveness as a fire retardant as well as a thermal and electric insulator, was used heavily by military ship builders. Between the 1930s and 1970s, asbestos was used extensively on nearly every commissioned vessel. Up until the 1980’s, asbestos was also used in living quarters for Coast Guardsmen. Asbestos was used in floor tiles, ceiling tiles and outdoor siding and roofing. It was also used to insulate around pipes that ran throughout the ships and was sprayed on various surfaces to provide fireproofing or sound dampening. Much of the heat-generating equipment on ships—such as boilers—were coated with asbestos.
While thousands of individuals who served in the Coast Guard were exposed to asbestos, there were some positions that led to even greater exposure because workers were required to work directly with asbestos. People who were employed as shipyard workers, pipefitters, boiler workers, electricians, plumbers and insulators likely suffered greater exposure to asbestos. Coast Guard service men and women were literally breathing asbestos on a daily basis, often in severely confined spaces. Today many of them are unfortunately paying the price of this exposure with their health.
Seeking recovery from the government as a result of asbestos exposure can be complicated for members of the military, including the Coast Guard. Normal avenues of recovery—such as the court system—are not available to service members since the government’s responsibility is limited to paying service connected disability and providing care through the VA hospital system, so other methods are necessary. Having the assistance of an experience asbestos law firm, such as Kazan Law, can be crucial to holding the manufacturers and civilian installers of these deadly asbestos products responsible, thus making sure that those who were willing to give their lives for our country are taken care of in return.