Asbestos Use in Oil Refineries
Oil refineries used asbestos in raw and blended forms. It was added to other materials to give support strength and durability. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral consisting of fibrous structures that are easy to blend with other materials used in oil refinery construction.
Other than being fire resistant and having inert thermal properties making asbestos an ideal insulator and fireproofing material, asbestos was non-corrosive and would not conduct electricity. Asbestos was also widely available, stable under intense pressure and economical to purchase.
Did You Know?
Warnings of health risks to oil refinery workers from airborne asbestos exposure were known as far back as the 1930s. Many asbestos product producers and suppliers were also aware of the deadly disease potential asbestos exposure had.
Some oil company executives and refinery managers knew that asbestos exposure was harmful to their workforce. These culpable parties put profits before people and continued installing asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) into their oil refineries.
However, the average refinery employee didn’t know how dangerous long-term asbestos exposure would be. Daily, they worked in asbestos-containing environments and had prolonged exposure to large amounts of asbestos particles in the air.
Some of the ACMs used in oil refineries included:
- Chemical boiler fireproofing and insulation.
- Pipe wrapping and electrical cable protection.
- Wall and ceiling insulation.
- Pipe joint gaskets.
- Paints, glues and sealants.
- Furnace and pump linings.
- Wallboards, floor tiles and work surfaces.
Asbestos was also used to create fireproof fabrics. Refinery workers required personal protective clothing like suits, aprons, coveralls, boots, gloves and masks to shield them from dangerous chemicals and high temperatures prevalent in refinery work.
For seven decades, oil refinery employees wore gear made of ACMs. As protective clothing aged, it became friable and released crumbled asbestos particles around the workers.