The Air Force, which became a separate military branch in September 1947, was established during the peak of asbestos use in the United States, particularly within the armed forces. Members of all military branches have been particularly subject to asbestos exposure, and the Air Force is no exception. These individuals are at an elevated risk of developing asbestos-related conditions such as pleural mesothelioma. In fact, former members of the military constitute a large percentage of those diagnosed with mesothelioma in the United States.
In the Air Force, asbestos exposure was likely to occur in a number of different ways. The bases that were designed for the Air Force were often built containing several different types of asbestos materials. These bases might include ceiling tiles, floor tiles, shingles, walls, and insulation composed of asbestos, due to its fire-resistant properties. Asbestos is also found in insulation that surrounds water pipes due to its ability to resist heat. Other materials such as paints, joining compounds, and cements also commonly contained the toxic material and can be found on several Air Force bases.
In Air Force aircraft, valves and gaskets that were used in the engines and other airplane parts might also have contained asbestos. Mechanics who were responsible for working on the aircraft were likely to inhale airborne asbestos fibers at some point in their career.
Mesothelioma, which affects between 2,000 and 3,000 individuals within the United States per year, is a rare form of cancer that is caused only by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos exposure typically occurs during the replacement or damaging of materials that contain the highly toxic substance. Once these materials are disturbed, it’s possible for the small fibers of asbestos to become airborne, where they can then be inhaled or ingested by the worker. After inhalation, the fibers usually become lodged within the lining of the lung. This may lead to the development of pleural mesothelioma later in the individual’s lifetime.
After the initial asbestos exposure, pleural mesothelioma symptoms may not arise until as much as 50 years after the occurrence. Because of this, any veterans of the Air Force who believe that they have been exposed to asbestos should certainly be tested for asbestos exposure signs and symptoms by a qualified and professional physician.