Asbestos Awareness Week 2014 – Awareness and Resources for the Military Community

April 1 – 7 is Asbestos Awareness Week 2014. Why be aware of asbestos through the Military Families Learning Network? Approximately 8 percent of the nation’s population is made up of veterans. Of those veterans, 30 percent have died as a result of mesothelioma (Asbestos & the Military, History, Exposure & Assistance).

Heather Von St. James, a mother, wife, mesothelioma survivor and advocate brought this to the attention to the Military Families Learning Network. She hopes to raise awareness to the military (past and present) who may have been exposed to asbestos through active military service or installations.


Heather’s story – video

Asbestos can result in a virulent and fatal form of cancer known as mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is consistent with a long period of latency. In fact, in many cases veterans exposed to asbestos that retired from active-duty service decades ago are getting sick today.

The U.S. Office of Veterans Affairs Asbestos states:

Veterans who served in any of the following occupations may have been exposed to asbestos: mining, milling, shipyard work, insulation work, demolition of old buildings, carpentry and construction, manufacturing and installation of products such as flooring and roofing.

Veterans who served in Iraq and other countries in that region could have been exposed to asbestos when older buildings were damaged and the contaminant released into the air.

The Federal government began regulating asbestos use (mid-1970s) and began banning all new uses in 1989. Von St. James shared that on July 24th, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Defense Funding Bill that included $16 million in funding eligible to be awarded to mesothelioma research. The bill includes funding for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, including the Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program, in which mesothelioma is a topic area.

Von St. James points to several resources that may be helpful to share and spread awareness during global awareness asbestos week:

  • Featured Mesothelioma Warriors Speak Out blog posts (starting April 5) by Mavis, Lou, Heather, and Linda through the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization’s website and blog.
  • Mesothelioma Guide for veterans to learn more about asbestos in the military. (This guide breaks down information by specific military branches and offers assistance on reaching various Veterans Affairs offices for assistance.)

A special thanks goes to Heather Von St. James for providing the military community with additional information concerning mesothelioma during Asbestos Awareness Week 2014. For more on Heather’s battle with mesothelioma, go to I Was Given Just 15 Month to Live.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on March 31, 2014.  Contributors, writers, editors: Heather Von St. James, and members of the Military Families Learning Network team: Rachel Brauner, Karen Jeannette, Brigitte Scott, Anne Adrian, Kyle Kostelecky.

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