The United States military is the occupation with the highest number of mesothelioma patients. One-third to one-half of all mesothelioma patients are veterans. Of course, members of the military are exposed to far more environments than your typical American, but it’s primarily due to the asbestos in military family housing that this disease continues to affect our service members. Given what we now know about asbestos, why is asbestos still prevalent in U.S. military housing?
What Attracted the Military to Using Asbestos?
Like many organizations, for most of the 20th century, the military was drawn to asbestos due to its versatility, effective insulation, and fire and heat-resistant properties. The military heavily invested in asbestos products from manufacturers who were unaware of the dangers of asbestos inhalation. Not only was the toxic mineral used in their housing units, but they were also used in a wide variety of equipment such as:
- Piping and electrical wiring.
- Heat shields and brake pads.
- Insulation for boiler and engine rooms.
- Ropes and cables woven with asbestos fibers.
Asbestos was used in every branch of the military, leading to many service members to later develop the asbestos-causing disease, mesothelioma.
Why is Asbestos in Military Housing Still A Problem?
While asbestos hasn’t been used in new construction since the 1970s, it remains in military housing decades later. Although much of the military’s equipment has been replaced, the asbestos in construction is widespread, as there are currently 300,000 family housing units in the U.S., with another 36,000 internationally. According to a study by the Department of Defense, out of eight housing units evaluated, five did not have accurate records of the location and condition of onsite asbestos, and six did not inform the residents of its presence. Flaking lead paint and radon were also discovered in the units.
What is Being Proposed to Mitigate These Hazards?
The Department of Defense is still deliberating over a plan of action, but their recommendations thus far include the following:
- Update and revise service policies regarding health and safety hazard management.
- Develop oversight policies and procedures to evaluate the management of health and safety hazards in military family housing.
- Direct installation officials to coordinate asbestos and lead abatement.
While the jury is still out on a confirmed plan for asbestos in U.S. military housing, that doesn’t mean that you’re helpless to do anything about the hazardous materials on your property. Fiber Control, Inc. is outfitted with the experience and equipment for all your asbestos abatement needs. If you’re interested in having your property inspected for hazardous materials or are aware of their presence, contact us today.