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Vietnam

Vietnam veterans who served from 1964 through 1973 are at great risk for contracting mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos that was prominently used in ships, transport vehicles, garage repair shops and the building construction materials. Although the dangers of asbestos were widely known at the time, the asbestos industry ignored the health consequences and continued to produce asbestos products. Vast quantities of asbestos containing products were utilized due to their insulation properties and the fact that the mineral is virtually impervious to fire. Asbestos was so useful in situations of high heat and flame that asbestos fibers were woven into fire protective aprons, gloves and clothing for workers, all without manufacturers’ warnings of the dangers.

Vietnam Veterans and asbestos exposure

Veterans were exposed to asbestos in Vietnam, and the possibility of developing mesothelioma, in a number of ways. The group most at risk in the Vietnam War may have been Navy veterans. Nearly every ship commissioned between 1930 and 1970 contained multiple tons of asbestos insulation in engine rooms, through miles of piping aboard ship, and in the doors and walls as fireproofing measures. Although a policy was established in 1975 to end the use of asbestos and materials containing asbestos, asbestos use was continued as a thermal insulation material for other Navy applications during the Vietnam War. Asbestos fibers were also incorporated in:

  • tiles on Navy ship decks
  • electrical cabling in Navy galley ranges
  • piping system gaskets and packing

Vietnam veteran asbestos exposure for other branches of service
Active members of the other branches of service in Vietnam–Army, Marines and Air Force–also were in conditions with a high likelihood of exposure to asbestos. These veterans, like their Navy counterparts who are susceptible to developing mesothelioma, worked in repair shops, manned and rode in transports by land, air and sea, and lived in structures containing asbestos. Veterans of the Vietnam War were exposed to asbestos fibers through close proximity to:

  • ceiling tiles
  • flooring and flooring tiles
  • wall insulation
  • vehicle brakes, gaskets, and insulation
  • asbestos cement used for foundations
  • barracks
  • base operations facilities
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