Asbestos in the National Guard

The National Guard has evolved from a citizen militia into a professional fighting force of reserves. The Guard has a distinguished record of service since being created in 1903. Nearly half a million men and women currently serve in the National Guard’s twenty-seven divisions.  Members receive the same equipment and training as the U.S. Army. Their standards for awards, discipline, and ranks are identical. National Guard members may be called upon to serve in a war zone or on a peacekeeping mission. The Guard may also be deployed to help contain or clean up after a natural disaster.

Members of the National Guard have served in both domestic and foreign operations. The National Guard sent roughly 180,000 troops to serve in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years. Southern states sent their National Guard units to assist with reconstruction efforts following Hurricane Katrina.

National Guard members may come in contact with asbestos while performing their duties. Buildings located in a war zone or the path of a natural disaster may be partially or wholly destroyed. Landfills and waste disposal sites can suffer damage to their storage facilities. Buildings under construction and manufacturing plants are also possible locations that could have asbestos materials.

National Guard members have access to protective gear. However, they may not always be aware that a building contains asbestos materials. Updated information on buildings is not always available in a disaster or war zone. In addition, trace amounts of asbestos can be widely spread through the air around a damaged structure. Some exposure can happen to people even if they are properly wearing full protective gear.

After a person has ingested asbestos particles, they can remain inside of the body for years or even decades. Exposure to asbestos particles can result in cancers such as mesothelioma. Diseases affecting the gastrointestinal tract, lungs, and respiratory system have been reported as well. The symptoms of asbestos exposure may not fully appear for years. Cases have even been reported after decades of few or no symptoms. Early diagnosis and intervention is crucial to successful management of an asbestos-related condition.