The Link Between Mesothelioma And Drilling Mud

by Terry Bryant

Only in recent years has the link between mesothelioma and drilling mud become a primary focus. Isolated offshore, oil platforms often operate outside of close scrutiny, engaging in safety risks that would be quickly branded unacceptable on land. What’s becoming clearer, though, is that the now well-known threat of asbestos lingered on these platforms far longer than it should have.

While an offshore well is in operation, fluids have to regularly be pumped into the well to cool the equipment, loosen up sediment, and keep the operation area free of other fluids or debris. There are many fluids appropriate for this task, but oil and gas companies agreed that asbestos was perfect for the task. With its extremely high tolerance for heat and its ability to increase a fluid’s viscosity, asbestos appeared to be tailor made for offshore wells. Unfortunately, this universal acceptance of asbestos during the 1960s set the foundation for mesothelioma and drilling mud cases.

Several companies manufactured asbestos fluid additives for the oil and gas industry, including a division of Conoco Phillips. Marketed under the trade name Flosal, this additive was 85 to 95 percent asbestos by weight and was shipped in unsafe 50 pound bags. During fluid mixing, workers would tear open the bags and pour the asbestos directly into the fluid. This process would naturally kick up clouds of asbestos dust, covering unprotected workers in the material. This was the industry standard through the 80s, though some industry experts believe asbestos products were still being used through the 90s as well.

Now that the link between mesothelioma and drilling mud is clear, many lawsuits have been filed against product manufacturers. Oil platform workers are able to use the Jones Act to their advantage during these cases and have the option to file a claim of negligence against former employers.