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Department of Defense Funds Mesothelioma Research

Many veterans are at a higher risk of asbestos-related diseases because of the extensive use of dangerous asbestos fibers in thousands of buildings and U.S. Navy ships from World War II until the 1970s. During World War II, several million people employed in U.S. shipyards, as well as U.S. Navy veterans, were exposed to chrysotile asbestos products, as well as amosite and crocidolite. These forms of asbestos were used extensively in military ship construction

Veterans account for nearly 30 percent of all cases of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung or abdomen, caused by exposure to asbestos. Some soldiers worked in close quarters, such as ship engine rooms, where loose asbestos fibers circulated in the air. Asbestos was used in equipment in boiler rooms and engine rooms of ships as well as in numerous products, including gaskets, pumps, valves, boilers and turbines.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is responsible for funding and promoting research on diseases related to military service. Since 1992 it has funded over $5.4 billion for a range of diseases. However, none of the grants supported any research related to mesothelioma until recent action by the U.S. Senate.

In 2007 the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee directed the DoD to set aside funds specifically for mesothelioma research. In early 2008, the DoD awarded its first ever mesothelioma research grant for $1.4 million. In February 2010, the U.S. Department of Defense announced plans to increase spending on research into new ways to combat the fatal disease.

The most recent Department of Defense effort includes awards totaling several million dollars for three important mesothelioma projects. The funds will support research into early detection of the disease and the development of new treatments, including clinical trials for a promising new vaccine.

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