Almost everyone in the United States has heard the word “asbestos” during the last 20 years. It is common knowledge that asbestos was used to make many products including insulation, roofing materials and other residential and commercial building products. However, it is less known that asbestos was also used in the oil field industry including on land rigs as well as offshore oil rigs. If you worked in the oil field on land or offshore, it is possible that you were previously exposed to asbestos. You should know the following information.

Asbestos is the term used to describe several naturally occurring minerals. These minerals have various geological names but together are commonly referred to as asbestos-type minerals. One common characteristic is that they all can produce very minute fibers which easily break apart and are disbursed throughout the air. It is these fibers that are typically inhaled into a person’s lungs ultimately causing injury. A person’s body cannot in any way process these fibers, and thus they remain in a person’s body forever.

The oil and gas industry found asbestos products to be very helpful in connection with the drilling mud used offshore and on land rigs. Asbestos is fire retardant meaning that it has fire proof like qualities. Additionally, asbestos is very cohesive and serves as a bonding agent which was helpful when mixed with drilling mud. Offshore workers were required to mix asbestos products as well as even pure asbestos fibers into the drilling mud to give the drilling mud these fire resistant and cohesive benefits./

Medical problems that typically arise from past asbestos exposure include asbestosis which is the presence of asbestos fibers in a person’s lungs. This can be determined by an X ray with a proper, qualified X-ray reader. The asbestos-specific cancer known as mesothelioma is the worst asbestos-related health danger. Mesothelioma can occur in a person’s lungs, abdomen, heart and testicle area. Finally, asbestos fibers can cause pulmonary fibrosis or scarring of the lungs. All of these above-mentioned health problems can be properly screened by a qualified physician.

The good news for workers who were previously exposed to asbestos in the oil and gas industry is that maritime law and a federal law known as the Jones Act may provide relief for these workers if they worked offshore or on drilling barges on the water. Under maritime law and the Jones Act, claims can be filed directly against past employers for any asbestos-related exposure that a worker may have experienced while working for these past employers. This situation typically arises in regard to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and drilling barges which operated from the 1960′s through the mid to late 1980′s. Many of the workers on these oil rigs and drilling barges were exposed to asbestos and they may just be beginning to experience asbestos-related health problems because many asbestos-related health problems do not surface or “manifest” until decades after the worker’s exposure to asbestos.

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