Veterans who were exposed to asbestos while in service and developed a disease related to asbestos exposure may receive service-connected compensation benefits.
Asbestos is a fibrous form of silicate mineral of varied chemical structure and physical shape, derived from serpentine and amphibole ore bodies. Asbestos fiber masses have a tendency to break easily into tiny dust particles that can float in the air, stick to clothes, and may be inhaled or swallowed.
Common materials that may contain asbestos include:
- steam pipes for heating units and boilers
- ceiling tiles
- roofing shingles
- fire-proofing materials, and
- thermal insulation
Most of us have seen the commercials on television urging patients who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, that were also exposed to asbestos, to call a law group and determine if they qualify as part of a class action lawsuit. However, mesothelioma is only one of many conditions medically linked to asbestosis. It is well known that studies have confirmed a relationship between asbestos exposure and more than a dozen different conditions. Among those diseases include: lung cancer, cancer of the voice box, and ovaries, as well as a number of pulmonary related diseases, are well-known conditions linked to asbestosis.
Asbestos can in fact cause more benign conditions than cancerous ones. One of those conditions is cardiovascular disease. Researchers have found that exposure to asbestos increases the person’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
The VA has acknowledged that if you served in Southwest Asia theater of military operations or in Afghanistan, you could have been exposed to asbestos through contaminated air caused by damage to older buildings. In addition, if you worked in mining, milling, shipyard work, insulation work, demolition of old buildings, carpentry and construction, the manufacturing and installation of products such as flooring, roofing, cement sheet, pipe products, or the servicing of friction products such as clutch facings and bake linings, you may have been exposed to asbestos.
The highest concentration of exposure was in the U.S. Navy. Navy ships once were loaded with toxic asbestos. (See photo) During World War II (WWII), several million people employed in U.S. shipyards and U.S. Navy Veterans were exposed to chrysotile products as well as amosite and crocidolite since these varieties were widely used in military ship construction.
The Navy finally stopped filling ships with asbestos in the early ’70s, but those vessels remained in use for many years after production stopped. If you were at risk of exposure, symptoms can take decades to surface because of the potentially long latent period, from 10 to 45 or more years, between first exposure and development of the disease.
There has been extensive study in the medical literature regarding the correlation between asbestosis and cardiovascular disease. Data has shown that the prevalence for comorbid cardiovascular conditions is significantly higher in individuals with diagnosed asbestosis than other population.
A study conducted from 1971 to 2005 showed that ischemic heart disease accounted for 4,185 out of 15,557 deaths in patients with asbestosis. These figures represent significantly higher occurrences among asbestos workers when compared to expected averages. The study further stated that the duration of asbestos exposure was statistically significant for ischemic heart disease. [BMJ 2012; 345:e4203]
Another study shows that there is strong evidence that inflammatory processes in asbestosis are involved in the development of cardiovascular disease. The findings from this study provide evidence of a casual association between occupational exposure to asbestos and cardiovascular disease mortality in exposed workers. [Cardiovascular disease mortality among British asbestos workers (1971–2005); Occup Environ Med oemed-2011-100313Published Online First: 2 April 2012]
Further, an analysis of sixteen studies showed the possible biological mechanism of the indirect toxic effect of persistent inflammatory reaction induced by inhaled asbestos fibers in lung tissue. The study found that inflammatory mediators enter the blood vessels and transfer to the heart. The combined results from all studies indicated the pooled standardized mortality ratio estimate for cardiovascular related diseases was 1.11 (95% CI, 1.01–1.22). As such, this study clearly showed that asbestos exposure significantly increased the risk of cardiovascular related diseases in exposed workers. [Rong Y, Luo X, Zhang Z, Cui X, Liu Y, Chen W. Occupational exposure to asbestos and cardiovascular related diseases: A meta-analysis. Preventive Medicine Reports. 2015;2:920-926. doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2015.10.005.]
Veterans may file a claim for disability compensation for health problems they believe are related to exposure to asbestos during military service.