Every day, the men and women of the United States armed forces help protect our borders against terrorism and other threats. The inherent risk involved in such a critical task requires the best resources available, starting with transport vehicles and ships. While every effort is made to ensure that our soldiers are provided with the safest and most structurally sound equipment available, relative to vehicles and ships, there are sometimes unforeseen risks at play that threaten their lives and well-being – risks that have nothing to do with the enemy.
Diesel Exhaust Exposure
Diesel is the fuel of choice for most military vehicles. Comprised of two main components, gas and soot, diesel fuel creates an exhaust that can wreak havoc on a person’s lungs. The more prolonged and sustained the exposure, the more damage the exhaust can cause to the human body. When toxic diesel exhaust is breathed in by someone, he may experience short term dizziness, irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and nausea.
Unlike most civilians, military personnel do not have a choice about whether or not they are directly exposed to the harmful exhaust. To make it worse, many soldiers are exposed to the toxic fumes in varying degrees for hours on end every day. As such, their health issues can take a more drastic turn, resulting in lifelong respiratory illness, or worse.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has reported that prolonged exposure to diesel exhaust can increase the risk of lung cancer, as well as increase the risk of dying from lung cancer. As a result, diesel exhaust is now classified as carcinogenic to humans. Some of the substances that are known to, or are suspected of, causing cancer that can be found in diesel exhaust include formaldehyde, arsenic and benzene.
Military vehicles aren’t the only mode of transportation that endangers our military men and women. Prior to the dangers of asbestos becoming common knowledge, the Navy used the toxic material as insulation on its ships. Until the 1980s, when the dangers of asbestos were made public, military personnel had no idea that they were being directly exposed to a deadly carcinogen. The Mesothelioma From The Navy website offers a detailed picture of the history of asbestos use in Navy ships.
Sadly, exposure to asbestos leads to a particularly vicious form of cancer called mesothelioma. The asbestos particles become embedded in the lungs where they can cause inflammation. Often, cancer from asbestos exposure won’t develop for decades, so the victim won’t have any idea the source of his cancer was the Navy ship he was assigned to all those years ago.
Also, symptoms of mesothelioma include some of the same signs of a common cold, such as shortness of breath, loss of appetite and a nagging cough. So, it may not be obvious at first that a retired veteran is suffering from anything worse than a cold. However, mesothelioma is literally a matter of life or death, so any veteran who experiences these seemingly benign symptoms, and was exposed to asbestos while enlisted, is strongly encouraged to seek medical attention.
Our military personnel put their lives on the line for us every day. Some of the hidden dangers they face, including exposure to asbestos and diesel exhaust, can pose just as great a risk as the obvious dangers. Changes have been made and are continuing to be made, but for many soldiers it’s too little too late. We owe it to do our part to protect our soldier’s health while they’re on duty by continuing to pursue healthier, safer transportation alternatives. It’s the least we can do for those who are protecting us.