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Among the more common hazards affecting naval veterans is asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used extensively as an industrial insulation product in industrial materials and consumer goods. Asbestos was durable and fire-resistant, making it ideal for a number of different applications but perhaps the most common was in naval vessel construction. The issue of veterans and mesothelioma is of great concern for retired military and their families.
As stated previously, asbestos was particularly adept at insulation. For this reason it was primarily used in installations which required a resistance to extreme heat, cold, and temperature transfer. Some of the more common uses aboard naval vessels included pipe coverings, electrical wiring insulation, and boiler linings. As these installations could be found nearly anywhere aboard naval vessels, it is understandable why asbestos use was so extensive.
Contrary to popular belief, not all asbestos fixtures present an immediate hazard. It is only when asbestos materials are broken, cracked, or otherwise unstable that they present an exposure hazard. Unfortunately, many naval personnel were exposed to asbestos materials of this type. When asbestos installations were repaired or modified, it often involved disturbing otherwise stable asbestos material. Asbestos fibers were then released into the air and easily inhaled. Chipping away or grinding older fixtures often produced this effect. While asbestos exposure could potentially affect any naval serviceman, it was more likely to affect those who repaired or worked with these types of older fixtures.
Inhaled asbestos fibers lodge in the lining of the lungs and abdomen. Over time, these fibers cause a harmful inflammation of the internal tissue, leading to the growth of malignant plaques. These plaques can lead to mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer known only to be caused by asbestos exposure.
Thousands of naval veterans have been affected by mesothelioma and other asbestos-related disease due to exposure aboard naval vessels and naval shipyards. Fortunately, there is help available for them and their families. Evidence has come about in recent years that asbestos manufacturers were aware that their products were potentially hazardous but continued to produce them, endangering millions who encountered them. Many of those who developed asbestos-related health conditions such as mesothelioma have successfully collected damages from these manufacturers for their injuries.
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