Oil, Asbestos, and Illness in Louisiana

Posted on Monday, April 10th, 2023 at 9:44 am    

The oil industries of Louisiana have brought job opportunities and an influx of money to
the state for decades. However, the industry has a known history for being a dangerous field to
work in, often due to the heavy machinery, highly flammable oil, and risks of oil spills. A lesser-
known risk: toxic asbestos exposure that can result in a variety of illnesses including asbestosis,
lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

Many refineries and offshore drilling rigs utilized asbestos products in their machinery
due to the effective heat resistant qualities and cheap cost of the products. As oil is a
flammable product, the refining process was a dangerous one with its high temperatures and
pressure. However, the asbestos products, which provided heat resistance within a variety of
machinery and equipment, made the process itself safer, despite the toxic nature of asbestos
fibers. From laborers working around insulated reactors, tanks, vats, pumps, and pipelines to
welders using welding rods and blankets while making repairs, there were many areas in the
industry that posed the risk of asbestos exposure. With many sites across Louisiana, the oil
industry exposed many laborers to the toxic asbestos fibers. A partial list of known exposure
sites includes:

– Calumet Refineries in Princeton, LA and Shreveport, LA
– Marathon Refinery in Garyville, LA
– Placid Refining Refinery in Port Allen, LA
– Motiva Norco Refinery in New Orleans, LA
– Calcasieu Refinery in Lake Charles, LA
– Conoco Refinery in Lake Charles, LA
– Citgo Refinery in Lake Charles, LA
– Valero Refinery in Lake Charles, LA

Often, the workers were aware of the presence of asbestos, but not the dangers it
posed. Prior to the 1980s, the general knowledge regarding asbestos’ toxic qualities was not
widely spread. The manufacturers of asbestos products however were aware of the risks, yet
did not provide proper warnings on packaging or materials.

Around 1980, warnings began appearing, especially after the FDA made sweeping
announcements regarding asbestos’ toxicity. Common signs of asbestos-related illnesses, such
as shortness of breath, were often attributed to other illnesses, and even are to this day. It can
take decades for symptoms to appear, or for scarring to show up on internal imaging like a
chest X-ray or CT scan. A history of smoking can also aggravate asbestos fibers in the lungs,
making symptoms worse.

Diagnoses of lung cancer are often attributed to smoking, however if you previously
worked around asbestos products and were diagnosed with lung cancer, there is a chance that
the toxic fibers caused the cancer. Asbestos exposure is also known to cause a range of other
cancers including stomach cancer, colon cancer, esophageal cancer, and laryngeal cancer. Even
without a cancer diagnosis, there may still be asbestos related illnesses present, such as

With the extensive asbestos exposure in the oil industry, former workers at refineries
and offshore drilling rigs are at a higher risk of developing these illnesses. If you believe you
were exposed to asbestos, we encourage you to give our office a call to learn about
compensation that may be available.

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