Oklahoma (OK) Asbestos Information:
Oklahoma, today primarily an agricultural state with a growing telecommunications and aircraft industry, is also a leading producer of natural gas and was once a leading oil producer. As recently as 2005, petroleum accounted for 17% of the state’s economic activity.
The oil industry is also perhaps one of the most dangerous industries, not only in terms of fire and burn injuries, but because of what was used to protect against such injuries.
Asbestos and Oil Refineries
Asbestos is heat-resistant, an effective flame retardant and impervious to many corrosive and toxic chemicals. Because of its flexibility and pliability, it can be used in everything from gaskets to protective clothing worn by petroleum workers.
Crude oil is actually a form of “solar energy”; author and radio talk-show host Thom Hartmann has described it as “ancient sunlight.” It is actually the solar energy captured by plants over 300 million years ago. These plants died and were eventually covered over.
As the millennia passed, geologic processes acted upon the remains of these plants, transforming it into flammable forms of carbon, chiefly “rock oil,” or petra oleum, and coal.
Even when first pumped out of the ground, petroleum is quite volatile and thus highly flammable. It is for this reason that asbestos was used in the oil industry almost from the start. The refining process requires the use of heat and toxic chemicals, and asbestos insulation is an excellent and inexpensive barrier to both.
The problem occurs when these asbestos materials become friable. This means that the asbestos starts to crumble and turn to dust. This dust consists of millions of tiny fibers, which when inhaled, act as microscopic spears, puncturing the lung from the inside out, or scraping the inner tissues raw and causing the build-up of scar tissue that results in asbestosis or develops even further into one of the forms of asbestos cancer, such as mesothelioma or lung cancer.
The U.K. Study
The dangers of asbestos faced by oil refinery workers were clearly illuminated by research carried out by British doctors in 2003.
This study tracked over 45,000 oil refinery and petroleum distribution workers who had been employed in the industry between 1946 and 1971. Those who worked in the distribution side of the industry were no more susceptible to cancers or other illnesses than the general public. Those who worked in oil refineries themselves, however, suffered from “significantly elevated” rates of mesothelioma and melanoma.
Anything that applies to petroleum also applies to natural gas as well; pipe fittings, pipe and conduit insulation and even protective clothing that is ripped or worn can all become friable.
What Oklahoma Statistics Show
Between 1970 and 1980, the population of the Sooner State increased by about 15%, from a little over 3 million to 3.4 million. During this time, 336 Oklahomans lost their lives to asbestos diseases, primarily in the heavily populated areas in and around Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
Of these fatalities, over twice as many were due to malignant mesothelioma as to asbestosis, despite the fact that asbestosis is far more common.
The reason for this is that asbestosis is not necessarily immediately fatal. Although incurable, if asbestosis is caught in its early stages and the patient is protected from further asbestos exposure (as well as tobacco and other air pollutants), the progress of the disease can often be stopped; proper treatment allows such patients to live a normal life if the disease has not progressed too far.
A mesothelioms diagnosis is difficult to make; for that reason is it rarely caught in the early stages. An aggressive and highly malignant form of cancer, it usually kills the patient within a year and a half of diagnosis, although this varies somewhat; some victims have survived as long as five years with the disease.
Oklahoma (OK) Asbestos Cancer & Mesothelioma Treatment Centers
Today, between 25 and 30% of all Americans will get some form of cancer during their lifetimes. There are many reasons for this, including the modern lifestyle and the poisons that have been put into the environment – of which asbestos is a prime example.
The number of clinics and hospitals that specialize in oncology have increased in response to the growing number of patients.
Oklahoma (OK) Mesothelioma Lawyer & Legal Resources:
A search through the Oklahoma Federal District Court Cases for asbestos-related personal injury product liability lawsuits, particularly Oklahoma mesothelioma lawsuits, brings up no recent lawsuits. However, that does not mean that the state does not have asbestos cases or asbestos-related injury. In fact, Oklahoma is ranked 31 in the U.S. for mesothelioma cases. With a mesothelioma mortality rate of 8.34 per million, Oklahoma has a crude mortality rank of 41 in the country.
Along with her Oklahoma mesothelioma lawyer, Oklahoma resident Gertrude Lowe filed a $200,000 suit in 2007 against 107 defendants in Madison County Circuit Court on June 21, 2007. Lowe alleged that she developed mesothelioma indirectly through asbestos on her family’s clothing. Lowe’s suit alleged that her father and late husband both worked in the army and were exposed to asbestos products. The suit claimed that the defendants, while knowing about asbestos’s toxicity, intentionally included the material in their products. The suit also alleged that the defendants failed to provide accurate warnings and safety guidelines for people working around asbestos, used asbestos in products even though substitutes were available, and did not run tests on the products that contained asbestos. Lowe further claimed that the defendants destroyed all files with evidence regarding asbestos exposure on their work premises.
In February, 2007, a similar claim was made by a different Oklahoma resident, Lisa Rawlings, and her Oklahoma mesothelioma lawyer, who filed a suit for more than $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages against 84 companies, alleging that their negligence led to her being diagnosed with mesothelioma. The plaintiff, who claimed she was exposed to asbestos during automotive and home projects, alleged that she also was subject to repeated exposure to asbestos dust because her family members worked with and around asbestos and asbestos-containing products. Rawlings’ father was a mechanic and her husband was a welder, and she claimed that her husband and her father brought homes asbestos fibers on their clothing, allowing her to be exposed to the asbestos. Rawlings’ lawsuit accused the defendants of failing to instruct employees on how to prevent carrying the dust home on their person. She further alleged that her inability to obtain information from the defendants and to receive full disclosure of relevant documents was because the defendants destroyed documents related to asbestos. By destroying the documents, which the case claimed the defendants should have known would be considered evidence in asbestos litigation, the defendants breached their duty to preserve material evidence; Rawlings’ suit claimed that this reduced her ability to prove her claims and to recover damages.
In another case, filed in Madison County Circuit Court by the estate of Randy Stone, 30 defendant corporations were named. The suit alleged that Stone suffered asbestos exposure while employed as a laborer, pipe-maker, machinist and quality control manager from 1950-2005. The suit claimed that the defendants used asbestos in their products even though they knew asbestos fibers would damage the health of people absorbing them and that they included asbestos in their products even though adequate substitutes were available. The suit further alleged the defendants provided no warnings to those working with or around asbestos and failed to conduct tests on products containing asbestos in order to determine the risks to workers. The suit sought a minimum of $250,000 in damages for, among other allegations, negligence, conspiracy, willful and wanton acts, and negligent spoliation of evidence.
Those interested in filing an Oklahoma mesothelioma lawsuit should know that the statute of limitations for personal injury law in Oklahoma is two years with a discovery rule that states that this amount of time begins when the problem (in this case the mesothelioma) either was discovered or should have been discovered. Wrongful death cases fall under the same statute of limitations and discovery rule. There is no specific statute about asbestos in Oklahoma.