All U.S. veterans are considered to be at risk for developing mesothelioma due to the overwhelming presence of asbestos at military bases and aboard ships and vehicles used by the armed forces through the late 1970s. Navy cases of this asbestos cancer are most common, but Marine Corps veterans face many of the same exposure risks as Navy personnel. The amphibious nature of Marine Corps missions is supported by Navy warships, and such vessels were constructed with a wide variety of asbestos-containing products. Anywhere that heat- and fire-resistant materials were needed, asbestos was often the “go to” solution. Gaskets, boiler insulation materials, and pipe fittings were just a few of the many products that were all made with this dangerous substance. Asbestos was also a component in floor coverings and cement, both on land and at sea.
In the 1980s, the health risks of asbestos exposure became incontrovertible and its use by the U.S. military was curtailed. Unfortunately, many of the ships and military bases constructed before that time remain “in service” even today. That means even present day Marines face some risk of asbestos exposure. That risk is less each year as older ships and bases are refit or retired, and as new safety precautions are put in place.