War Related Illness and Injury Study Center
Veterans may have concerns about exposure to asbestos. Military roles including mining, milling, shipyard work, insulation work, demolition of old buildings, and others were at high risk for this type of exposure.
Asbestos exposure can cause a number of health effects. Whether a service member develops health effects as a result of their asbestos exposure depends on several factors such as how much substance an individual was exposed to and for how long or whether or not that person had a pre-existing condition. See our WRIISC Fact Sheet for more information.
Main health effects of asbestos exposure involve the lungs or membranes around the lungs. Asbestos-related health effects are:
- Asbestosis: scarring of lung tissue that causes breathing problems.
- Pleural plaques: scarring in the inner surface of the ribcage and area surrounding the lungs that can cause breathing problems, though usually not as serious as asbestosis.
- Cancer: The two types of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos are lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the thin lining surrounding the lung (pleural membrane) or abdominal cavity (the peritoneum). Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer usually caused by asbestos exposure.
Being exposed to asbestos does not mean that a Veteran will develop health problems. If you are a Veteran concerned about health effects from exposure to asbestos, you should contact your primary care provider to discuss your concerns.