Asbestos--a legacy and a persistent problem

J R Nav Med Serv. 2009;95(1):4-11.


Asbestos has been utilised by industrialised nations for over a century and its deleterious health effects have been reported for an almost equal length of time. Whilst developed countries have now reduced their asbestos use, developing nations are increasing their asbestos imports and consumption. Because of this, there is now a perceived risk to Non Government Organisation and military personnel involved in aid operations or conflict areas, where asbestos containing materials and buildings may have been disrupted. With significant asbestos exposures to U.K. military and dockyard personnel in the past, the health consequences are continuing to increase, with the incidence of malignant mesothelioma expected to continue to rise until between 2012-2020. There is no effective cure or treatment for any of the lung or pleural asbestos related diseases; malignant mesothelioma has a median survival of just 6-12 months. Misconceptions about asbestos are widespread, contributed in part by a long latency between exposure and disease. Following diagnosis of an asbestos related disease, financial recompense for ex-service personnel is limited, and the civilian legal implications continue to change. This review will encompass the historical usage of asbestos, its biological effects, the legal and financial implications of exposure, and establish that there may be a continuing threat of exposure to deployed military personnel

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asbestos / toxicity*
  • Construction Materials / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Pleural Diseases / etiology
  • United Kingdom
  • Workers' Compensation / legislation & jurisprudence


  • Asbestos