If you have been keeping track of the news for the past seven years, you are probably aware of a company called Halliburton. For those who heard of it, Halliburton is a huge corporate conglomerate with numerous subsidiaries that provide oil field services. Between 1976 and 2000, Halliburton was been the defendant in well over a quarter million lawsuits involving asbestos exposure.
Oil field workers are among those at elevated risk for asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma (A rare and deadly form of asbestos cancer), which as been a major focus of litigation since the 1970s. To be fair, this liability was incurred decades ago; when it was acquired by Halliburton in 1998, Harbison-Walker already had several tens of thousands of asbestos claims against it. Nonetheless, in the world of corporate mergers and acquisitions, a corporation which takes over another accepts its liabilities as well as assets. Outstanding legal action is considered part of the former.
Where was the Exposure?
Drilling for oil involves a number of risks, but some of the deadliest ones are not as obvious as others. Men who work on oil-drilling sites as pipefitters for example, run a high risk of asbestos exposure because of the ACM that was often used to insulate such equipment. Because of the fire danger present at oil fields, asbestos was frequently employed for its fire and heat resistance; asbestos insulation is not uncommon. As this insulation ages, it becomes brittle, or friable, meaning that asbestos fibers are able to flake off and float about as dust in the air.
In addition, protective clothing – worn by oil workers as protection against possible well fires – was itself made from material that contained asbestos fibers. Today, such protective suits are made from aluminized, heat-resistant alternatives. The old-fashioned asbestos fire suits could expose the wearer to fibers if they had wear, or were torn. Late film actor Steve McQueen, who died in 1980 of malignant mesothelioma, may have been exposed to asbestos fibers from wearing such fire suits while racing.