WHY ARE MESOTHELIOMA AND DRILLING MUD CASES BECOMING MORE COMMON?

For many years, oil and gas companies ignored the link between the two, exposing their employees to constant asbestos exposure. Asbestos was a ubiquitous material additive for decades, used extensively in the construction, aerospace and automotive industries. Its heat resistance and ability to increase a fluid’s viscosity also made it a popular option for oil platforms. However, the oil and gas industry was one of the last to respond to asbestos safety concerns, and widespread usage of the material lasted through the 1980s.

WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF ASBESTOS?

Mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the tissues that line the lungs, abdomen or heart. The only known cause for the disease is asbestos exposure, something that oil and gas workers had to contend with when handling fluid additives. Asbestos products normally consist of caked fibers that, individually, are extremely tiny. They are so small, in fact, that they can become tangled in cellular DNA, causing massive damage. When the fibers are disturbed, they are readily suspended in the air and can be unknowingly inhaled by any worker in the vicinity. Once inhaled, they settle into the lungs and are nearly impossible for the body to remove naturally. Over time, the asbestos causes the body to form a fibrous mass, a condition known as asbestosis. This mass has a high risk of becoming cancerous, and once it does, death normally follows within months.

HOW ARE MESOTHELIOMA AND DRILLING MUD CONNECTED?

Fluid additives in the oil and gas industry are used for several reasons. They protect drill heads from heat, they help flush out loose material, and prevent other fluids from infiltrating the well. Asbestos was a standard additive during the 1960s, 70s and 80s because it was excellent at dispersing heat and because it thickened the liquid, making it even more effective at protecting the well. Several asbestos additives were marketed during this time, including Flosal, perhaps the most frequently used additive. Flosal was marketed by a division of Conoco Phillips and sold from 1964 to the late 80s. It was packaged in 50 pound bags and contained between 85 and 95 percent asbestos. During fluid mixing, workers would open the bags and pour the material directly into the fluid, scattering clouds of asbestos particles everywhere. Lack of safety equipment compounded the danger, as workers were not typically furnished with protective eyewear or respirators.

WHY IS A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY OFTEN CONTACTED FOR MESOTHELIOMA AND DRILLING MUD CASES?

Asbestos claims are often difficult to prove because the claim has to be filed against the asbestos product manufacturer. Many fluid additive makers have since declared bankruptcy, complicating the process further.

However, oil platform workers have access to the Jones Act, a federal statute that gives workers more power in filing claims
. Workers who qualify under the Jones Act may sue an employer directly for negligence and liability, giving injured workers a chance of attaining restitution from former employers who put them in danger. Several high profile lawsuits have already been resolved, including a 2009 Texas case that resulted in a $1.2 million settlement for the deceased victim’s wife.