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Today, the dangers of exposure to asbestos fibers are widely understood. These dangers include significant long-term health consequences, such as mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers. Though it was used in products throughout the country, there are certain states that had a higher prevalence of it and a higher number of deaths associated with it.

While the use of asbestos in products was largely discontinued in the 1980s, individuals continue to be diagnosed with serious health conditions related to exposure to asbestos due to the ability of asbestos fibers to remain in the body for long periods of time. Asbestos becomes dangerous when microscopic fibers are released into the air and breathed into the lungs. Importantly, the effects of exposure to asbestos fibers may not become apparent for many years.

Where was it Commonly Used?

Asbestos was more common in certain states as a result of the particular industries that were located in those states. These industries included manufacturing, mining, and shipping. In Michigan, the automobile industry exposed many people to asbestos fibers. Asbestos was used in numerous automobile parts, including transmission components, clutches, brake pads, and spark plugs, among many others.

Veterans Affairs Disability Compensation for Asbestos Exposure

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides compensation for veterans who suffer from a medical condition connected to the veteran’s military service. Quite often, these types of conditions arise as a result of the traumatic injuries on the battlefield. The VA also considers asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma or asbestos lung cancer, to be conditions that are compensable. VA benefits can provide critical resources to a veteran suffering from the devastating effects of asbestos-related illness.

Asbestos in the Military

Individuals who served in the military, particularly before the 1980s, were at a high risk of being exposed to materials that contained asbestos. This is because the properties of asbestos made it highly suitable for use in machines that needed to be resistant to fire and heat. Though vehicles and other machines in all branches of the military contained asbestos, it was most widely used in naval ships. Because the effects of asbestos fiber exposure usually do not appear for several years, or even decades, it is common for veterans who served during the middle of the twentieth century to just now be diagnosed with serious conditions.

Process for VA Disability Compensation for Asbestos Exposure

The first step in obtaining VA disability benefits is to file a claim, which is accomplished through VA Form 21-526. The VA will obtain evidence, such as the veteran’s military history and medical records. This process can take up to four months, but can be expedited by providing the VA with the evidence required. In addition to collecting evidence, the VA may request that the veteran submit to an examination at a VA hospital.

Individuals who worked in the railroad industry are very likely to have been exposed to materials that contained asbestos. Exposure to asbestos-containing materials increases the risk of long-term health issues. Under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), railroad workers are afforded a special way of potentially recovering for health conditions that develop as a result of exposure to asbestos. Today, numerous railroad companies have been involved in litigation brought under FELA.

Danger to Railroad Workers

The use of asbestos was widely abandoned in the 1970s when the dangers of exposure to it were recognized by the federal government. Due to the size of the railroad industry during the twentieth century, there are many people who were exposed to asbestos. Further, because of the specific properties of asbestos, it was widely used for railroad materials, including, but not limited to, the following:

  1. Insulation, including materials in locomotives, such as boilers, the outside of the engine, under the body of the train, and in boxcars;
  2. Equipment, such as cement ties, plaster, and sealing materials; and
  3. Locomotive parts, such as brake pads, the transmission clutch, and tiles in passenger cars.

Workers possibly affected by exposure to asbestos include those who worked on or constructed railroads, such as by laying track, as well as those individuals who constructed locomotives, rail cars, or parts used in the industry.

After the federal government officially recognized in the 1970s that exposure to asbestos fibers increased the risk of long-term health risks, the use of asbestos in products was largely discontinued. However, much of the asbestos already used was not removed, meaning buildings around the country still contain materials that have asbestos in them today. The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) provides special regulations for how asbestos is treated when it is located within schools.

AHERA and Asbestos in Schools

Under AHERA, school districts and non-profit schools, such as charter or religious schools, are required to:

1. Inspect their schools for asbestos-containing building material; and
2. Prepare management plans and to take action to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards.

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