Asbestos Dangers in Native Veteran Population

Written by Admin

Asbestos is a carcinogen that has killed tens of thousands of veterans and workers in the United States. Exposure is known to increase the risk of diseases like asbestosis, asbestos cancer, and mesothelioma. Veterans represent only 8 percent of the population and yet they account for an astounding 30 percent of deaths from asbestos containing material (ACM) related diseases.

Native Populations Disproportionately Affected

Native Americans have served with dignity and distinction in every major conflict the US has had for over 200 years. The US Department of Defense reported that, as of 2012, there are 22,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives serving on active duty in our military. According to the 2010 census, there are over 150,000 American Indian and Alaska Native vets. Native Americans make up only 1.8 percent of the population, yet have the highest military service per capita across all ethnic groups. As such, Native vets are disproportionately affected compared to other ethnic groups.

Widespread Use in Military

ACM was in widespread use by the US military from the 1930s to the 1990s. It was used in buildings, shipbuilding, aircraft, and vehicles. The Air Force stopped using the carcinogen in the 1980s and the Army started warning people in the 1990s.

Navy vets are at the highest risk since so much ACM was used in shipbuilding, as well as in engine and boiler rooms. Every naval ship constructed during those six decades contained ACM. In fact, the Coast Guard warns service people that there is still an ACM exposure risk in their cutters. This is not to say that those who served in other branches of the military should not be concerned. Virtually all branches of the military were subject to exposure and this includes civilians who worked in naval shipyards.

Workers Still Exposed

While new ACM products are prohibited in the US, there is not a total ban. The handling, containment, and disposal of ACM are controlled to protect air quality and reduce exposure. While this is an improvement, workers are still at risk while working on existing buildings and products that used the carcinogen.

Early Detection is Paramount

It is imperative that vets know the symptoms of ACM-related diseases and seek help at the first sign. Early detection is paramount to saving lives, especially in the case of malignant mesothelioma cancer where every second counts. As Native Americans are an underserved population, it’s important for native vets to apply to the VA for benefits and keep pushing for the services to which they are entitled.