Between the 1930s through the 1970s, asbestos was a vital material in the shipbuilding industry, and the construction of Navy ships required applying the hazardous mineral from engine and boiler rooms to sleeping quarters and mess halls.
Asbestos's versatility and accessible price range contributed to its popularity in naval shipbuilding long before its hazardous health effects became widely known. Consequently, many Navy veterans are just now experiencing symptoms and facing severe diseases like leukemia decades after service.
Airborne asbestos fibers cause irreversible health processes as they penetrate the lining of major organs, get lodged, and tear the tissues as the body tries to clear them out, causing scarring. Asbestos-related scar formation is permanent and may slowly progress even after exposure to asbestos ceases. The microscopic asbestos fibers can stagnate in the lining for up to 50 years before generating a diagnosable disease and can irritate the tissues enough for cell mutation to occur and tumors to form - it is why prolonged exposure to the tiny asbestos particles may facilitate malignant illnesses like:
- pharyngeal cancer
- laryngeal cancer
- bronchial cancer
- lung cancer
- esophageal cancer
- gastrointestinal cancer
- colorectal cancer
- urogenital cancer
Veterans with an asbestos cancer diagnosis qualify for expedited claims and are immediately eligible for compensation if their medical history states the abovementioned health conditions.
Repeated Exposure to Toxic Materials Like Asbestos Is One of the Risk Factors for Leukemia
While the dangers of being exposed to asbestos can contribute to the development of severe illnesses like leukemia, no direct link has been revealed yet, and research is still ongoing. However, the disease was associated with asbestos exposure based on studies published in 1979 involving patients with heavy occupational exposure to the carcinogenic mineral. Data published by the National Cancer Institute shows that around 61,780 new cases of leukemia are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, and based upon the estimates, approximately 1.6 percent of the population will be diagnosed with leukemia at some point during their lifetime.
Besides certain blood disorders and congenital syndromes, repeated exposure to toxic substances like asbestos is among the risk factors associated with the disease. Leukemia is classified by what type of white blood cells are affected and by how quickly it progresses:
- Lymphocytic leukemia - develops in the white blood cells called lymphocytes in the bone marrow.
- Myeloid leukemia - develops in white blood cells other than lymphocytes, red blood cells, and platelets.
Per their general characteristics, there are four main types of this illness:
- acute lymphocytic leukemia
- acute myelogenous leukemia
- chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- chronic myelogenous leukemia
One of the most typical types of leukemia in adults is chronic lymphocytic leukemia (also known as CLL), a blood and bone marrow cancer that usually aggravates slowly. Acute forms of the disease tend to progress quickly when untreated and are characterized by blast cells: immature cells produced by bone marrow. Chronic forms have fewer or even no blast cells and advance more slowly than acute forms of the disease. The diagnostic process determines whether or not a person has leukemia, as well as the specific type, through specialized medical intervention performing:
- blood test
- bone marrow aspiration
Given that symptoms of leukemia may not be noticeable for decades, proactive screening is recommended. An open dialogue between veterans and their doctors is always helpful in recognizing the signs of the disease:
- repeated infections - mouth sores, sore throat, persistent coughing, frequent micturition with irritation
- accentuated tiredness - lasts a long time and doesn't improve with rest
- anemia - pale complexion, weakness, and breathlessness
- itchy skin and unexplained rashes
- increased bruising and bleeding
- bleeding that takes longer to stop
- persisting fever and night sweats
- loss of appetite or nausea
- sudden weight loss
Seeking guidance from a medical professional for correctly reading the symptoms is advisable, along with speaking about service in the military - it helps determine what risk factors may have contributed to the development of the disease and quickly establish the best therapy.
Asbestos-Related Illnesses Can Mimic Common Health Conditions
Often, diseases stemming from asbestos exposure can be challenging to diagnose because they manifest similarly to other regular and less severe respiratory disorders. Most doctors easily misread the symptoms, and an inaccurate diagnosis consumes valuable time on inappropriate treatments. To prevent such situations, veterans should ask for a second or a third doctor's opinion outside the VA to ensure a thorough evaluation of their illness.
Being vocal about the high risk of asbestos exposure on Navy ships built before the 1980s further increases veterans' chances of an accurate assessment and could discover non-cancerous asbestos diseases like:
- rounded atelectasis
- pleural plaques
- pleural effusion
- pleural thickening
- pulmonary fibrosis
- lung nodules and spots
- chronic bronchitis
Non-cancerous asbestos diseases don't qualify a veteran for compensation, but they tend to develop into cancer and should be kept under observation. Scheduling periodic chest X-rays and pulmonary function tests helps to spot any malignant transformation, and an asbestos-related cancer diagnosis will make Navy veterans eligible for claims. It's essential to note that the statute of limitations for eligibility is up to five years from the date of diagnosis. Family members of deceased veterans have three years to file a claim from the date of the loved one's passing.
We Offer Support for Navy Veterans to Succeed at Accessing Benefits
With asbestos abundantly present on ships built before the 1980s, thousands of Navy veterans have exchanged peaceful retirement for diseases that significantly impact their health and finances.
Filing a claim for asbestos trust funds and VA benefits could compensate for the issues, but the process can be daunting. Many veterans never apply and will miss the chance to receive the deserved compensation. A key to successfully applying is to get help from a lawyer specializing in asbestos claims. A legal expert can help you collect your service-related documents faster and establish a connection between your job and how the exposure occurred. We offer support by putting you in touch with the best professionals ready to help with your case.