Gulf War Vets Home Page

Sept. 29, 2008

Asbestos Exposure and Gulf War Veterans

The naturally occurring mineral asbestos was widely used in a variety of building components throughout most of the twentieth century. This unique mineral acts as a superb fire retardant, is resistant to heat and rot, and performs as an excellent insulator. However, asbestos is also hazardous, as it is known to cause several forms of asbestos cancer, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.

Most military veterans who are currently suffering asbestos-related diseases either worked in shipyards or accompanied Navy vessels during World War II.  However, experts have expressed an increasing concern for Gulf War veterans due to the average 20-30 year latency period between asbestos exposure and the resulting diagnosis. Many veterans involved in the Gulf War were exposed to asbestos from more than 600 oil well fires in Iraq and Kuwait, as well as a number of other potentially hazardous events. Now, just 16 years after the war, many Gulf War veterans are already experiencing health problems that are related to asbestos exposure.

One of the major concerns for military veterans is pleural mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that develops in the mesothelial lining of the lungs. The latency period associated with this disease makes it especially harmful because veterans may have already contracted the illness and have yet to experience any symptoms. As a result, most cases are diagnosed in the latest stages of development, which often limits mesothelioma treatments to palliative measures rather than curative. In addition to the lining of the lungs, malignant mesothelioma can also occur within the lining of the abdomen and heart.

Countless veterans are currently suffering from life-threatening illnesses that are a result of exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, asbestos-related diseases are not always recognized by the VA, which is why Mesothelioma Cancer Center offers free assistance to all veterans applying for benefits. For more resources on asbestos, the various forms of asbestos cancer, and other illnesses that veterans should be aware of, please visit the veteran-specific page of their site at mesothelioma and veterans.

Kaylen Myrick
National Awareness Coordinator       
Mesothelioma Cancer Center

20 N. Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32801