Emphysema and Asbestos Exposure on Military Duty


Navy ships could have been as dangerous as an enemy attack which is why asbestos - a highly effective heat insulator with thermal stability and thermal resistance was extensively used on naval vessels. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral made up of fibers that are too small to be seen by the naked eye.

The causal relationship between asbestos exposure and malignant and nonmalignant diseases has been established by various epidemiologic studies. Inhalation of air containing asbestos dust and fibers is the primary route of asbestos entry into the body. These small diameter fibers can travel deep into a person's lungs, where they may eventually lodge in the lung tissue causing several serious diseases.

Differentiating Between Emphysema and Asbestos-Related Diseases May Be Challenging

Thousands of people employed in U.S. shipyards and U.S. Navy were exposed to asbestos since more than 300 asbestos-containing materials were used in naval ship construction.

Since 1920, leading medical journals have published articles linking asbestos to asbestosis, a pleural disease whose only cause is exposure to asbestos which generally took place in occupational settings. Studies concluded that emphysema is more common in workers diagnosed with asbestosis or who were heavily exposed to asbestos. Further studies have shown that having asbestosis can make patients more likely to develop lung cancer in the future.

Emphysema is a chronic obstructive lung condition in which the overinflated and stretched alveoli don't allow the old air to escape, leaving no room for oxygen-rich air to enter. Since the symptoms of emphysema are almost similar to those of common lung diseases, such as asthma, pneumonia, and tuberculosis, and often resemble the more severe ones, such as asbestosis or lung cancer, differentiating between emphysema and another illness is extremely challenging, even for medical experts.

Common signs and symptoms of emphysema and asbestos exposure:

  • A cough that won't go away
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Wheezing
  • Frequent lung infections
  • Reduced appetite/Weight loss
  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath)

Many asbestos-related diseases are often diagnosed incorrectly, resulting in limited treatment options for patients. Asbestos-related diseases are complex and most doctors easily misread the symptoms. This inaccuracy can delay the right diagnosis and treatment, and also lead to recovering a smaller amount of money from asbestos trust funds than you are entitled to. Getting a second opinion and certainty of asbestos-related diagnosis gives you access to benefits and financial assistance for diseases associated with asbestos. Likewise, if your emphysema develops into a malignant disease, you will have the entitlement to file for another asbestos claim for your new diagnosis.

Undergoing a simple chest X-ray especially if there is a well-known history of exposure to asbestos, is a very effective measure against the late diagnosis of a potential asbestos-related disease. CT scanning provides more and detailed information than plain radiography with regard to tumor characteristics and extent.

Asbestos Fibers Remain in the Lungs Forever After Inhalation, Posing a Constant Threat to Your Health

Veterans may be eligible to receive VA disability compensation for emphysema if they can prove that their condition was caused by military service. Emphysema involves damage to the very fragile air sacs in the lungs. With this damage, the air sacs are restricted to oxygen. When veterans deal with emphysema, it becomes difficult to conduct daily activities.

In order to reduce your chances of being diagnosed inaccurately and treated inappropriately, we highly recommend you getting yourself evaluated by a pulmonologist who specializes in asbestos-related diseases.

The disability level or rating of this pulmonary disorder is often measured by the FEV1/FVC ratio which represents the volume of air exhaled in the first second after full inspiration. Another test called "diffusion capacity of the lung" is a measure of how well oxygen and carbon dioxide are transferred between the lungs and the blood.

Conditions that mimic asbestos-related lung cancer:

  • Emphysema
  • Asthma
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Pneumonia

Symptoms and Physical Findings Alone Are Not Sufficient to Diagnose Asbestos-Related Diseases

The physician must also establish the presence of pulmonary fibrosis by imaging and must determine whether asbestos exposure has occurred that is of sufficient duration, latency and intensity to be causal. However, some asbestos-associated diseases like asbestos-related pleural disease can be seen with less intense exposure.

It is worth noting that the VA will determine your compensation amount based on the severity of your disease and how your condition is expected to progress. Getting a proper diagnosis from specialists preferably specialized in asbestos-related diseases, like a B-reader, for example, is also essential for your prognosis and for receiving the correct treatment. A B-reader is a physician trained and certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in asbestos-related lung X-rays. Typically, a B-reader evaluates chest X-rays to see if there are any changes or abnormalities that can be caused by inhalation of tiny particles of asbestos.

We are a nonprofit organization that helps veterans and military families to understand the risk posed by exposure to asbestos. In this regard, we continue to provide accessible and detailed information, and we can put you in touch with some of the best legal experts if you want to file a claim for compensation. Do not hesitate to contact us at 760.621.6147 and we will gladly answer any questions you may have.

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