The last U.S. refinery was built in 1976, however, the old age of the plants hasn’t slowed down the U.S. oil industry. When the facilities were tallied in 2006, 144 oil refineries remained in operation. Each day, these 144 establishments collectively process an impressive seventeen million barrels of oil. The workers at these refineries work under harsh conditions to maintain productivity and ensure that enough oil is produced to meet demands. Many workers inadvertently risked their lives as they toiled day in and day out with the many items containing asbestos in oil refineries.
Asbestos and Oil Refinery Workers
Around the time the last U.S oil refinery was built, doctors discovered the link between two baffling, terminal medical conditions they’d been struggling with for several years and the asbestos that a plethora of industries used. During the construction of that final refinery, several asbestos products were still being used by oil refinery workers. The items that may have included asbestos are:
- Mixes and epoxies
- Protective clothing
- Electrical insulation
- Bench and countertop covers
- Pipe fittings
- Fire blankets
- Lab equipment
- Brake pads on the vehicles
- Pipe cement
- Shipping materials
A study conducted in 1994 revealed that “exposure to asbestos in oil refineries causes pleural mesothelioma. This is the first study to find an excess of pleural mesothelioma cases among oil refinery workers exposed to asbestos.” The study’s conclusion stated that “pleural mesotheliomas should be considered an occupational disease among oil refinery workers since the use of asbestos has been widespread in this industry and many of the workers share the same environment.”
Eleven years later, the same group of scientists put together another study. They found that when they examined the oil refinery workers, 96-100% of the mesothelioma cancer cases and 42-49% of lung tumors the workers had were linked directly to the asbestos they’d been exposed to.
Once the asbestos fibers enter the body, it’s impossible for the respiratory system to expel them. They remain lodged in the lining of the lungs forever. As time passes, the lining becomes inflamed and scars, which eventually leads to the development of mesothelioma and asbestosis. Both are painful and fatal conditions.
Although the prognosis for mesothelioma and asbestosis isn’t good, it’s important to understand that things are looking up. Doctors are getting better at catching the diseases while they’re in the initial stages and have developed treatments that significantly prolong the paper mill workers. If you believe you’ve been exposed to asbestos, it’s important to inform your doctor so you can undergo the appropriate screenings.
Over $30 billion has been set aside to help offset the medical expenses of oil refinery workers who have been diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses. If you’re an oil refinery worker who has developed an asbestos-related illness, it’s in your best interest to contact a mesothelioma attorney. An attorney can help you navigate the legal process and assist you in procuring a settlement so you can stop worrying about your financial situation and focus all your energy towards healing.