Asbestos Usage in the Oilfields

Asbestos was used in thermal pipe insulation in the oilfields, as well as in protective clothing worn by oilfield workers to protect them from burns. Asbestos was also used as an additive in drilling muds to increase viscosity (thickness). Drilling muds protect drill heads from heat, flush out loose material from drill holes, and prevent other fluids from infiltrating the well.

Probably the most common drilling mud asbestos additives were Flosal and Visbestos, both of which were sold in 50 pound bags. Workers would open these bags and pour them into the mud, creating clouds of dust. Mud engineers, drillers, shaker hands and mud mixers were all exposed to this dust, and if they did not wash up and change clothes before going home, they could carry asbestos home and expose their families.

Photo via Unsplash

Asbestos additives were used with drilling mud from the 1960s through the 1980s. Drilling mud additives were sold in packages that did not warn about the cancer hazards of asbestos, although it was well established that asbestos could cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, a special kind of cancer almost always associated with asbestos exposure. Juries have returned large verdicts in several cases because companies failed to warn workers about the dangers of inhaling asbestos dust.

Asbestos products were used on land wells, drilling barges and off shore oil platforms. If asbestos exposure occurred on the water, it may be possible to bring a lawsuit against the worker’s employer under a law known as the Jones Act. If asbestos exposure occurred on land, it may be possible to bring a workers compensation claim. It may also be possible to bring lawsuits against the companies that manufactured or sold the drilling muds or other asbestos containing products. In some states, it may be possible to bring a lawsuit against the employer if it acted deliberately or recklessly, but the relevant law varies from state to state. Deadlines for filing asbestos lawsuits also vary from state to state, so it is important to retain legal counsel familiar with asbestos litigation.     

James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. has represented thousands of people who have been injured by exposure to asbestos products. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by asbestos, call us at 304-881-0652 (local) or 877-341-2595 (toll free) for a free initial consultation. You may also contact us at our website,

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