Asbestos in the Marines

Before asbestos began to be regulated, it was used in countless applications in the Marines. Tanks, transport vehicles and barracks were common locations asbestos was used.

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Written by LCDR Carl Jewett

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First to Fight: Marine Corps Rights

Asbestos use was present in every branch of the armed forces. Marines had a wider range of possibilities for asbestos exposure than other branches, as they were exposed both at sea and on land.

Manufacturing Companies are Responsible – Not the Marine Corps

Although asbestos products were heavily used in the Marines, it is important to note that the Marine Corps is not responsible. The companies that profited from asbestos concealed the dangers of asbestos from the government and veterans.

What Marine Veterans Should Know About Asbestos Exposure

Increased Asbestos Use

Marines faced the highest risk of asbestos exposure from WWII until the 1980s. Asbestos used increased during the mass production of military vehicles starting in WWII.

Ships Used Most Asbestos

The Marine Corps’ coordination with the Navy made ships the most frequent area where Marines encountered asbestos.

VA Benefits for Marines

Marine with mesothelioma are typically eligible for VA benefits ranging around $3,100 per month to support their active duty-related illness. Learn more about VA benefits in our list of 3 things every veteran needs to know.

Where Marines Encountered Asbestos

A Hazardous Relationship – Navy Ships

Prior to 1998, entire Marine detachments were deployed on Naval vessels. They consisted of approximately 200 marines. Therefore, not only do Marine veterans have a risk of asbestos exposure from vehicles used by the Marine Corps, but they also have the same risks as Navy veterans.

Asbestos lined pipes, walls, doors and wardrooms on ships creating a hazardous environment.

Every ship in the Navy up to the 1970s contained dangerous levels asbestos. Marines deployed on these ships shared the same risks as sailors. Due to the confined spaces on ships, there was an increased risk of higher concentrations and durations of asbestos exposure.

Aircraft

Aircraft were not exempt from the use of asbestos materials. Engine gaskets, brake pads, and insulation in aircraft all contained asbestos. Marine aircraft technicians were most at risk of asbestos exposure in this environment.

Tanks and Motor Transport Vehicles

Currently, the tank of choice used by the Marines is the M1 Abrams, which was introduced in 1980. This class of tank was developed after asbestos regulations and poses little danger of exposure. However, the Abrams’ predecessor, the M60 Patton, was introduced in 1960s, which meant that asbestos was used for insulation.

Asbestos was so prevalent that gunner’s assistants used mittens woven with asbestos to protect their hands while handling machine gun casings in tanks. However, these fibers aren’t as dangerous as the asbestos insulation packed into heating systems and firewalls in these vehicles. Asbestos used in heating systems was more likely to disintegrate and release fibers into the air.

Amphibious assault vehicles, transport vehicles and all-terrain vehicles also pose a similar threat of asbestos exposure. This is because of heat generated from the engines and guns on board. Mechanics who built and serviced these vehicles faced the highest risk of exposure.

Barracks

It is important to remember that asbestos was used in countless facets of the military. This means Marine barracks were laden with asbestos products before regulations put in place.

Some barracks may currently still contain potentially hazardous levels of asbestos. There have been reports of asbestos contamination at Camp Lejune in North Carolina. However, officials now have a clear set of regulations that must be followed if asbestos is suspected.

Asbestos in barracks was used in typical construction applications including:

  • Flooring tiles
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Roofing material
  • Insulation
  • Piping

Marines responsible for building these barracks have the highest exposure level because they worked directly with these materials. Learn more about asbestos exposure throughout the Marine Corps in our free Mesothelioma Guide.

How Can Marines Take Action?

The risk of developing mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure in the Marines is compounded by the relationship of the Marines and the Navy. Marines also face the risk of exposure from asbestos used in tanks, transport vehicles, aircraft and barracks.

Our VA Accredited Claims Agent, LCDR Carl Jewett, is a retired Navy veteran having spent most of his 24-year submarine career in the Engine Room. He is an expert at filing, and getting veterans approved for VA benefits for asbestos illnesses. Learn more about how Commander Jewett helps veterans and the steps you can take in our free Veteran’s Support Guide.

Sources & Author

    • Blake, Charles L., Giffe T. Johnson, Raymond D. Harbison. (2009). Airborne asbestos exposure during light aircraft brake replacement. Tampa, FL.
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About the Writer, Retired LCDR Carl Jewett, VA Claims Agent

LCDR Carl Jewett is a retired Naval Officer who serves as the Veterans Department Director and Patient Services Director at Mesothelioma Guide. He is a VA-Accredited Claims Agent with more than 10 years of experience filing asbestos-related VA claims. He has helped over 1300 veterans who have been diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses get approved for VA Disability Compensation, VA Pension, and/or Aid & Attendance benefits. Because veteran’s are also entitled to compensation through the legal system, Carl has communicated with many mesothelioma law firms across the country. He has gained extensive knowledge of asbestos trust funds, mesothelioma lawsuits, settlements, and the claims process. He provides both veterans and civilians with information regarding their legal options.