Mesothelioma and the U.S. Army

U.S. Army personnel risked exposure to asbestos for decades. Their vehicles, weapons, and equipment often used asbestos as a fireproofing material to protect servicemen. However, asbestos could also cause deadly diseases like mesothelioma. It was not until the 1980s that asbestos was phased out of the Army. Because asbestos companies knew the health risks but hid them from the government and the public, compensation is available to Army veterans who were harmed by asbestos exposure.

Army Veterans, Asbestos, and Mesothelioma

Those who served in the U.S. Army gave their time, energy, and sometimes their lives to defend their country. But over a 60-year timespan, those who served in the Army faced an unknown threat of asbestos exposure.

Asbestos is a very strong mineral and was used by every branch of the military. In the Army, asbestos was used mainly as insulation for bases and vehicles. Weapons, machine parts, and clothing also contained asbestos.

Asbestos was widely praised when it was first introduced. It resisted fire, water, and sound. As a result, it was used to line tanks, jeeps, and weapons that would see frontline action.

But asbestos had a deadly secret. If asbestos-based materials were disturbed, microscopic fibers could break off and enter the air. Army personnel could easily breathe in these fibers. The fibers would get stuck in the body and cause lethal diseases like mesothelioma.

Did You Know?

Asbestos was used from the 1930s to the 1980s, with peak asbestos use occurring throughout World War II. During this time, hundreds of thousands of Army personnel may have come in contact with asbestos.

Even a single exposure to asbestos can cause lethal illnesses to develop later on. However, the Army personnel at greatest risk were those who regularly handled asbestos-based products.

Today, veterans are one of the highest risk groups for mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer of the body’s organ linings, and it has no cure. However, there are medical options that can extend your lifespan.

The Army and Asbestos Use

Asbestos continued to be used until the government restricted its use in the early 1980s. In that decade, as much asbestos as possible was removed from Army buildings, vehicles, and equipment. However, thousands of people had already been exposed

Those serving in the Army could hold different duties. Therefore, soldiers could be exposed to asbestos in different ways. Some only had a low risk, while others were put in contact with the material on a regular basis.

Those exposed decades ago are now at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, as it takes 20-50 years for these diseases to develop. Most of them are incurable and aggressive. For example, someone with mesothelioma typically only lives for a few months without treatment

Asbestos still poses a threat to some Army personnel today. Older buildings in war zones could contain asbestos fibers. If these fibers are disturbed during combat, soldiers could breathe them in and develop serious diseases later on.

What Army Jobs Had the Highest Risk?

Any job that put Army personnel in contact with asbestos-containing products significantly increased the risk of illness.

The following Army jobs had a high risk of asbestos exposure:

Construction Engineers

Those who served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have the greatest risk of asbestos exposure. They handled asbestos-containing materials directly as part of military construction. Asbestos fibers would often enter the air as a result of regular construction duties.

Construction materials that used asbestos included:

  • Ceiling and floor tiles
  • Cement and cement powder
  • Electrical wiring
  • Insulation
  • Paint
  • Pipes
  • Roofing equipment
  • Siding and shingles

Construction-related jobs — including carpentry, painting, and plumbing — often put Army personnel in danger of exposure to asbestos fibers.

Demolition projects were very dangerous because huge amounts of asbestos fibers could enter the air.

After the dangers of asbestos became widely known, engineers were later charged with removing asbestos from Army buildings and bases. However, they followed proper removal procedures to limit the risk of asbestos exposure.


When asbestos was used by the military, nearly every vehicle used it in some fashion. Army mechanics who repaired these vehicles were put at risk as a result.

Vehicle parts that used asbestos included:

  • Brake systems
  • Clutches
  • Engines
  • Gaskets
  • Insulation
  • Heating systems

Since these parts were often exposed to high heat, asbestos was used to make them last longer. However, as the parts wore out, the asbestos components could crumble and release fibers into the air.

Army mechanics were tasked with dismantling, rebuilding, or repairing these parts. In the process, they were regularly exposed to high concentrations of asbestos.

Additional Jobs at Risk

A number of other Army jobs put soldiers at risk of asbestos exposure. These jobs typically put workers in direct contact with asbestos-containing equipment or materials.

These jobs included:

  • Plumbers: Army plumbers had to repair or replace pipe systems that contained asbestos. Without care, they could cause asbestos fibers to be released.
  • Firefighters: When a building made with asbestos products caught fire, the fibers could enter the air. Army firefighters could accidentally inhale the fibers while working to put out the fire.
  • Tankers: Army tanks were lined with asbestos-based insulation to keep them fireproof. As this lining wore down, the asbestos fibers entered the small and poorly circulated interior of the tank.
  • Artillery Personnel: Heavy artillery and huge weapons launched explosives and missiles at enemies. Operators of these weapons wore suits and gloves lined with asbestos to prevent their bodies from getting burned.

Aid for Army Veterans with Mesothelioma

If you or someone you love is an Army vet with mesothelioma, there are a few ways you can find medical and financial aid. Army veterans can apply for VA benefits and also file a mesothelioma lawsuit against manufacturers of asbestos products.

VA benefits include a lifetime pension, benefits for next of kin, in-home nursing care, and other helpful services. To receive these benefits, your VA claim must show that your military service exposed you to asbestos.

Fortunately, working with a mesothelioma law firm makes this process easy. Sokolove Law has attorneys accredited through the VA to process benefits claims.

Our firm handles mesothelioma claims and lawsuits. These lawsuits do not sue the Army or the U.S. government. Rather, they seek compensation from asbestos companies. These companies knew the risks of their products but sold them to the government anyway.

To start a VA benefits claim or a mesothelioma legal claim, call (855) 854-2504 or contact us today. Our case managers are standing by to answer your questions.

Author:Sokolove Law Team
Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: February 26, 2021