Air Force Veterans and Mesothelioma is so common that thousands of Air Force veterans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, the result of prolonged exposure to asbestos. That is because asbestos was widely used by the United States military throughout the 20th century.
Asbestos Use in the Air Force
Asbestos, known for its strength, durability and resistance to heat and fire, was used in many products. Many of these products were used by the Air Force, such as insulators, drywall, ceiling tiles and acoustic panels. Asbestos was also used in machines, brake pads and gaskets. Mechanics that serviced airplanes that contained asbestos products may have been in contact with asbestos on a daily basis.
For a time, the military mandated the use of asbestos throughout its branches, taking advantage of its unique properties in the building of barracks, administrative buildings and naval ships. However, use of the dangerous substance wasn’t halted when veterans began complaining about breathing difficulties or chest ailments. Instead, it was decades before the government did anything to protect its soldiers.
Protection for Air Force Personnel
In the 1970s, the general public started becoming aware of what many industrial and governmental leaders already knew about asbestos. In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally enacted the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out rule to end use of the substance in the U.S. However, this act was overturned in 1991, allowing manufacturers to continue to use trace amounts of the substance in their products under strict government regulation.
Even with limited use since then – and increased safety measures for workers and military personnel who interact directly with the substance – mesothelioma cases are expected to peak in the U.S. in coming years. Mesothelioma has a long latency period, which means symptoms may take decades to appear.
Unfortunately for Air Force veterans who were regularly in contact with asbestos and have developed mesothelioma, there is still no cure for most asbestos-related diseases. However, doctors can provide treatment to slow the spread of the disease and relieve pain.
When mesothelioma is discovered in a patient, doctors use staging systems to gauge the progress of the disease and determine which treatment methods are best suited. Surgery is generally the most effective method for removing the growth, but the tumor’s usual proximity to the lungs makes it a difficult prospect. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are also options, and they involve powerful drugs and X-rays that target and kill cancerous cells.