HomeLibraryMaritime InjuriesImportant Information About Asbestos Offshore

Important Information About Asbestos Offshore

Did you know that during the 1960s, 1970s, and even 1980s asbestos fibers were used in drilling mud on offshore oil rigs? Some of these products were pure asbestos fibers that workers were required to add directly to drilling mud in order to achieve two benefits. First, asbestos serves as a fire retardant material. More importantly, asbestos served as a thickening agent or bonding agent with the drilling mud. This allowed the offshore oil rigs to operate with a thicker type of drilling mud since asbestos had been added to the drilling mud.

Unfortunately, most workers who worked around the asbestos products and drilling mud additives were not provided with proper safety equipment including breathing masks. During the 1970s OSHA began to heavily regulate the use of asbestos at workplaces. Amazingly offshore oil companies took the position that since OSHA did not apply to offshore rigs and drilling barges, the drilling industry including many maritime companies did not have to follow the new OSHA regulations. This needlessly exposed more Jones Act and Maritime workers to the dangers of asbestos throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s.

If you worked offshore from the 1960s through the mid-1980s, it is very likely that you were exposed to asbestos especially if you worked in the mud shack, mud room or directly around the drilling mud. Contact our office to speak with a Jones Act lawyer regarding any past asbestos exposure that you may have experienced while working on an offshore drilling rig or a drilling barge. You can also view our Jones Act Asbestos information site here.  The Jones Act and Maritime Law protect you and we can discuss your rights with you.

The offshore maritime industry including drilling rigs previously used asbestos products and even pure asbestos fibers in its drilling mud. This occurred during the 1960s through the early 1980s. Many health problems can arise if you have previously been exposed to asbestos fibers and breathed these fibers into your system. This is because asbestos does not break down or dissipate once it is breathed into your lungs.

There are two specific types of diseases which are unique to asbestos exposure: (1) mesothelioma and (2) asbestosis. Mesothelioma is a very specific type of cancer caused only by asbestos when asbestos accumulates in the meso lining of several different parts of the body including lungs, heart cavity, stomach and testicle lining. Asbestosis refers to the presence of asbestos fibers visibly seen in a person’s lungs during a proper X-ray and screening.

If you have been diagnosed with either of these conditions, the condition has been caused by your previous exposure to asbestos. Many people, however, did not know that asbestos exposure offshore also causes a significantly higher likelihood of lung cancer. This is particularly true in individuals who have previously smoked cigarettes or tobacco products.

If you worked offshore on oil rigs as a Jones Act seaman or maritime worker and have been diagnosed with lung cancer, it is possible that asbestos exposure significantly contributed to your lung cancer. It is important for your to speak to a qualified Jones Act asbestos lawyer who is familiar with not only asbestos being used offshore on oil rigs but also the Jones Act and Maritime Law which could afford you significant protection and rights. Contact our office immediately if you have any questions regarding your past exposure to asbestos while working on Jones Act drilling rigs.

Shipyard Workers and Mesothelioma: Is Asbestos A Risk in 21st Century Shipyards?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is resistant to heat, resistance to electrical and chemical damage, has sound absorption properties and high tensile strength. This made it an excellent material for ship building.  Asbestos was used throughout ships for a variety of applications throughout the 20th century.  Use of asbestos in ships included:

  • Pipe covering
  • Wall, floor and ceiling insulation
  • Furnace and Boiler insulation
  • Gaskets and gasket coverings, turbines, and pumps
  • Cement products
  • Bricks
  • Liners
  • Instrument paneling
  • Floor and ceiling tiles
  • Cabling

Unfortunately, asbestos can also cause serious lung disease if the microscopic particles are inhaled. Repeated exposure to the fibrous particles can lead to asbestosis, lung cancer, esophageal cancer,  gastrointestinal cancer, laryngeal cancer, pharyngeal cancer and mesothelioma.

In the late 1970’s asbestos was banned for most ship building applications.  However, this has not eliminated the risk of shipyard exposure to asbestos.

Many ships built before the ban are still in service.  They may require repair or dismantling.  So,  shipyard workers, especially ship breakers, remain at risk for diseases caused by asbestos exposure.

Asbestos may still be used in the vanes of rotary vane air compressors and rotary vane vacuum pumps, in insulation and watertight joints in areas of high temperature and high pressure or where there is risk of fire, corrosion or toxicity, and in thermal insulation used in extremely high temperatures.

Before the 1970’s little was known about the health risks of asbestos.  Workers handled the fibers with bare hands and didn’t bother with protective clothing.  Even shipyard workers who did not work with asbestos came in contact with the fibers by interacting with those who did asbestos work.

Today, OSHA has rules regulating asbestos exposure in shipyards.  These are listed in OSHA’s Inspection Procedures for Occupational Exposure to Asbestos Final Rule 29 CFR Part 1915.1001.  However, these rules came too late for many ship yard workers.   Asbestos can cause mesothelioma even more than 50 years after exposure.

Modern shipyard workers, especially those involved in ship repair and ship wrecking, may still be exposed to the asbestos present in older ships.  It is important that they take precautions when there is a possibility of asbestos exposure.  Workers should wear head to toe protective clothing and use a high-energy particulate air respirator. If workers are not properly trained and do not have appropriate safety equipment, modern shipyard workers may still be at risk from asbestos exposure.

If you are shipyard worker, regular screenings by a doctor are the best way to protect your health. Pay close attention to any of the warning signs of mesothelioma, including: fluid in the lungs, chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath and fatigue.

Consequences of Asbestos Exposure

In addition to cancer, there are other serious consequences of asbestos exposure. One that can develop is asbestosis. This inflammatory condition leads to chronic coughing, shortness of breath and may even cause permanent lung damage.

Some of the nonmalignant disorders affecting the lungs that can be acquired are:  

  • pleural plaques;
  • pleural thickening; and
  • benign pleural effusions.

The consequences of exposure to asbestos as a maritime worker may lead to you seeking help to understand your Jones Act rights and in turn, the filing of a claim.

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