Oklahoma is an industrial state in America’s heartland, supplying agriculture, petroleum, manufactured goods and other staples for the country and beyond. While these industries are sources of pride and economic prosperity for Oklahomans, they have also proven to make workers sick through asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma Cases in Oklahoma
From 1999 to 2013, nearly 2,000 Oklahomans died from asbestos-related illness. While these statistics rank below the national average, the death rates in 5 Oklahoma counties are almost double the nationwide median.
The top 5 Oklahoma counties for asbestos-related deaths are:
- Kay County
- Okmulgee County
- Carter County
- Ottawa County
- Delaware County
Coupling these statistics with Oklahoma’s inadequate health care services (third-worst in the U.S.) reveals a significant problem.
Oklahoma courts have awarded millions of dollars in damages to mesothelioma victims and their families. In a rare instance of a case going to a verdict, Oklahoma laborer Michael Galier filed claims against 12 companies for wrongful asbestos exposure during work in the 1970s to 1990s. The jury found 2 of those companies at fault and ordered them to pay Galier $6 million for pain, anguish and to cover medical care.
Asbestos Use in Oklahoma
Asbestos was put to broad use in 20th century Oklahoma. Heat-resistant and anti-corrosive, asbestos was used in industrial equipment, mechanical parts, buildings and even protective clothing for employees who worked around high temperatures.
Oil and Natural Gas
Oklahoma is consistently among the top 3 oil and natural gas producers in America, with drill sites and refineries all around the state. Asbestos was used in insulation to prevent fires, in refinery equipment like gaskets and in protective clothing for workers.
Ships that serviced the oil and gas industry also exposed workers to asbestos.
Agriculture and Food Processing
Oklahoma is an agricultural leader, producing varieties of livestock and crop. Whether a small family farm or a large-scale operation, asbestos could be found in the walls, roof and flooring of buildings. It could also be found in brake linings of farm vehicles and in equipment like boilers. Asbestos use has been phased out since the 1970s, but it remains in old buildings and equipment.
Food processing plants also used asbestos in its buildings and operations. Additionally, ovens, packaging equipment and production line parts contained asbestos. Workers employed at meat-packing, bakery, animal feed and general food processing plants may have been exposed to asbestos.
Oklahoma manufactured many of the necessary parts to serve its key industries, producing oil field machinery and agricultural refrigeration, heating and irrigation equipment. Factories also made parts for the aviation, aerospace and automobile industries. Asbestos factories like Standard Asbestos Manufacturing and Insulating Company and Stevens Asbestos Product Company put workers at risk of exposure.
Other high-risk occupations for asbestos exposure and developing mesothelioma in Oklahoma include:
- Automobile mechanics
- Airline maintenance workers
- Boiler room workers
- Plumbers and pipefitters
- First responders
- Construction/demolition crews
Employees who worked indirectly with asbestos or who spent time in a building constructed with asbestos may also be at risk of developing mesothelioma.
Employees who worked in any capacity at the following job sites may have been exposed:
- Freight yards
- Power plants
- Chemical plants
- Military bases
- Paper mills
- Iron and steel factories
- Old buildings that underwent major renovation
Oklahoma Asbestos Laws and Regulations
The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality oversees the state’s asbestos regulations. Building owners and contractors must notify the department of all demolitions and of significant renovations where asbestos is confirmed. The state’s Department of Labor ensures all workers are properly trained and certified to handle asbestos and carry out abatement projects.
Oklahoma residents must be aware of the statute of limitations surrounding claims for wrongful asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma patients have 2 years from the date of diagnosis. If filing a wrongful death claim, direct family members have 2 years from the date of death.
Retaining an Oklahoma Mesothelioma Lawyer
Given the short time frame to file a claim, it is vital for mesothelioma victims to contact an accredited attorney right away to begin the legal process. A qualified mesothelioma lawyer has the experience and know-how to negotiate the settlement you deserve as quickly as possible.
If you developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure in Oklahoma, contact our Justice Support Team today.