Beginning in World War II, the US military sanctioned the usage of asbestos in building components of cruisers, submarines, carriers, and destroyers. In fact, thousands of tons of asbestos were used to construct, maintain, and repair ships used, whether they were deployed for battle or kept in reserve.
Asbestos products, once sanded, sawed, cut, or heated, release microscopic fibers into the air. Though these fibers are impossible to detect through smell, sight, or taste, they can be inhaled and ingested, building up in the lungs or stomach. Navy personnel who worked at ship yards, either constructing, repairing, or scrapping naval vessels, were exposed to the effects of asbestos.
If inhaled or ingested, asbestos may lead to a deadly cancer called mesothelioma. Mesothelioma symptoms include shortness of breath and chest heaviness, and are often latent for 20-50 years after initial exposure. This means that World War II veterans, and even some that work and live on ships today, are unaware of the existence of mesothelioma until long after the cancer has spread.
Mesothelioma life expectancy is short, generally anywhere from a year to a few months. Because symptoms are subtle and common, doctors often misdiagnose veterans. When the correct diagnosis is given, mesothelioma treatment is often too late and ineffective. Of the 25 million US veterans, about a million have been exposed to asbestos over an extended period of time. Through secondary exposure to asbestos, even family members of these heroes may be in danger of cancer.
To prevent mesothelioma from consuming the lives of those veterans and of current Naval servicemen who may be exposed, request a mesothelioma screening. If you or someone you know has served in the Navy, undergo or recommend the necessary cancer precautions: talk to a doctor, ask questions, and request testing. Early detection of mesothelioma can lead to successful treatment and a longer, healthier life.