Our Oklahoma asbestos attorneys represent individuals and families throughout the state who have been diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. If you or someone you love has suffered as a result of asbestos exposure, we may be able to help you recover a significant amount of compensation. To find out if we can help you, please contact us today.
Asbestos Exposure in Oklahoma
Today, Oklahoma depends mainly on its aircraft, agriculture and telecommunications industries; however, that has not always been the case. Oklahoma once relied heavily on oil production, which is one of the main industries known for asbestos use.
Oil refineries are industrial sites where unprocessed oil, or crude oil, is processed and refined into gasoline, heating oil, kerosene and diesel. The oil refining process involves the boiling of the oil, which allows for the separation of chemicals and the releasing of gases. Because petroleum is highly flammable, asbestos installation was heavily used in the piping that transported the oil between chemical processing units to prevent fires and overheating.
Oil refinery workers who worked at early refining plants were likely exposed to asbestos. Workers at risk include (but are not limited to):
- Maintenance and repairmen
- Pumping system controllers
- Oil testers
- Refining or processing operators or controllers
Although asbestos use has been banned, many Oklahoma residents who worked in early oil refineries and those who lived in the surrounding areas may have been exposed to toxic levels of asbestos.
While asbestos is not dangerous in its natural environment, it becomes toxic when it is broken down in the refineries. This process has exposed thousands of workers and their families to asbestos, which in turn, may lead to the development of mesothelioma cancer, asbestosis, lung cancer or other fatal conditions. And because the symptoms of mesothelioma can take 50 years to develop, many former workers are just now suffering from the effects.
The notorious Libby MT mining company WR Grace also shipped asbestos into this state, and many workers may have been exposed to deadly asbestos dust as they processed the ore and used it in various construction projects throughout Oklahoma.
Mesothelioma Statistics in Oklahoma
There have been 346 mesothelioma deaths here from 1999 until 2013, and 53 asbestosis deaths.
Asbestos Litigation in Oklahoma
A major asbestos lawsuit involving Terry McCann, a gold medal winning Olympian in 1960, put mesothelioma on center stage after the former wrestler was diagnosed in 2005. It was likely that McCann was exposed to deadly asbestos as a construction worker in the 1950s. For approximately two weeks at an OK oil refinery, he breathed asbestos fibers in insulation while he was working on a boiler installation. After the diagnosis, he filed a personal injury lawsuit against Foster Wheeler, which was the firm that made the boiler.
Foster Wheeler argued that the family filed the claim too late; OK has a 10 year statute of limitations for this type of case. However, McCann argued that the longer statute of limitations in CA should apply as he was a resident there since 1975. The trial court found that the OK law was applicable, but McCann won on appeal.
Unfortunately, the CA Supreme Court reversed that decision and stated that the OK law applied. McCann could not sue and he died in 2006 from mesothelioma.
Superfund Sites with Asbestos in Oklahoma
The Hudson Refinery site located in Cushing OK is an old oil refinery that was active from the 1920s until the 1980s. The refinery was placed on the EPA Superfund list because of asbestos on the site, as well as various chemical hazards. Most of the removal of the asbestos was done by 2002, but some still was on the site as late as 2011.
In Cyril OK, the Oklahoma Refining Company was put on the Superfund list for several hazards, including asbestos. In 2003, EPA removed large amounts of asbestos from ground piping and vessels. Process towers and buildings also were torn down because of asbestos hazards.
The state now has very strict rules for the handling and removal of materials that contain asbestos. Lawmakers in OK adopted updated asbestos laws from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) in 1990. Renovation and demolition notices must be submitted to the Air Quality Division in the Oklahoma state government when any asbestos dust may be produced.
What You Should Do If You Have Been Exposed to Asbestos
If you or someone you love worked in or lived near an Oklahoma oil refinery, you may have been exposed to the toxic mineral. The first thing you should do is schedule an appointment with your physician to get a full evaluation. Be sure to tell your doctor of your prior exposure — sometimes mesothelioma can be misdiagnosed for something else because the symptoms are similar to other respiratory illnesses.
If you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, the next step is to contact an experienced asbestos attorney immediately who will help you understand your legal rights. Our mesothelioma attorneys in Oklahoma have helped thousands of individuals recover compensation through asbestos lawsuits and settlements. To learn more, contact us today.