America’s veterans were exposed to asbestos on a constant basis in the years between World War II and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and as a result many have since been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. What is most heartbreaking about this tragedy is the fact that so many asbestos companies that supplied the military with the asbestos-contaminated materials were aware that asbestos was hazardous, yet chose not to do anything to protect or even warn of the dangers that service members faced. Now a San Diego news station’s reporting has revealed similar negligence on the part of the San Diego Fire Department, which knowingly allowed firefighters training at the San Diego Fire Academy to be exposed to the carcinogen on a regular basis.
Asbestos is known as the single cause of malignant mesothelioma, as well as asbestosis and other asbestos-related diseases. Firefighters are at particular risk for these illnesses as a result of working in buildings that were constructed with asbestos-contaminated materials, but that is a far cry from the Fire Department exposing them to the carcinogen during training exercises. Yet that is exactly what they are accused of having done while using the old Naval Training Center for their training facilities. NBC7 in San Diego revealed documents that showed that numerous personnel had expressed concerns about asbestos, as well as the department’s purposeful delays in implementing a remediation program. The delays went on for fifteen years.
Upon learning of the mesothelioma risk that the department placed him and his colleagues in, San Diego Fire Captain Jesse Conner, president of the local firefighters’ union, said, “When we heard that there was potential long-term asbestos exposure, we were furious. One of the repeated mistakes over the years was that the fire department never fully addressed the problem. They continued to put interim solutions in place.” To make the department’s inaction look worse, the news station uncovered a memo written by Kurtis Bennett, the former manager of the department’s Cancer Awareness and Prevention Program. The memo read in part, “Every SDFD firefighter for the previous two decades has spent literally hundreds of hours training in the buildings at NTC. Employee concerns about environmental safety at NTC were not addressed properly.” He went on to say that the department had been aware of the asbestos hazards since “at least 2002.”
Veterans with mesothelioma can empathize with the fears and concerns that these firefighters now face. If you have questions about mesothelioma or the benefits available to veterans, contact us today at 1-800-726-7245.