Asbestos in the Military

Did you know that veterans have a higher incidence of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases than the general population?

In fact, veterans make up approximately 30 percent of ALL U.S. cases of mesothelioma.

Insider Info

  • The military made widespread use of asbestos from the 1930s to the 1990s.
  • Asbestos was used in everything from shipbuilding to the construction of barracks.
  • Each branch of the military used asbestos.
  • Every naval ship constructed in this time period contained asbestos.
  • The companies that manufactured and sold asbestos products to the military knew of the dangers but failed to warn service members.
  • Decades later, thousands of veterans have been diagnosed with debilitating and life-threatening asbestos diseases.

Asbestos Exposure in All Branches of the Military

Asbestos was widely used in ships and shipyards, aircraft and hangars, military buildings, and a variety of military equipment and vehicles.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has warned that anyone who served in the military could have been exposed to asbestos.

Although the U.S. military has now taken precautions to protect personnel, those who serve overseas continue to risk exposure when old buildings are damaged or destroyed, releasing asbestos dust into the air. 


Because of the extensive use of asbestos on ships and in shipyards, Navy veterans were the highest risk for exposure, particularly those who worked at shipbuilding facilities or in engine and boiler rooms.

Sailors frequently worked in tight quarters on ships, where they would unknowingly inhale microscopic asbestos fibers.

The Navy stopped using asbestos materials in the mid-1990s, but for many service members, the damage had already been done.

Air Force

Up until the 1980s, the U.S. Air Force used asbestos-containing components in planes, jets, helicopters, vehicles, and buildings. 

Aircraft mechanics and other personnel assigned to work in aircraft hangars, airfields, or in other buildings containing asbestos may have been exposed to the deadly carcinogen.

Coast Guard

Although it’s not as large as the Navy, this branch of the military shares similar duties.

Like veterans of the Navy, veterans of the Coast Guard were also likely exposed to asbestos while serving on ships and in shipyards.

In addition, even today, the Coast Guard has warned that asbestos materials remain on cutters.


The U.S. Army began its Installation Asbestos Management Program in the late 1990s to warn soldiers who might have been at risk of exposure and to implement asbestos abatement procedures.

At that time, the Army warned that asbestos materials had been used in a wide range of building materials and equipment.

Any soldiers who handled or worked in the vicinity of asbestos-containing materials may have been exposed.

In particular, those who were assigned to work on vehicles could have been exposed through asbestos-containing brakes and clutches.


Because Marines worked on ships, with aircraft, and on land, service members risked exposure to asbestos on multiple fronts.

Much like Navy and Air Force personnel, Marines may have inhaled asbestos fibers while working on ships or aircraft. Marine Corps facilities on land also contained asbestos materials, which means anyone who worked to repair or maintain these buildings could have been exposed.