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Between 1999 and 2013 nearly 2,000 people in Oklahoma died from illnesses that are related to asbestos exposure. These include hundreds of cases of asbestosis and mesothelioma, and nearly 1,500 cases of lung cancer assumed to be related to asbestos. While the number of deaths is not as high as in other states, it is significant and residents here have relied on Oklahoma mesothelioma lawyers to help them get justice and recover damages.

Oklahoma has long been an agricultural state, which has helped to keep asbestos exposure at a minimum. The state is also a big oil and natural gas producer, though, and these industries have accounted for much of the asbestos exposure residents experienced. There are also other types of workplaces in the state that have exposed workers and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund sites that put residents at risk.

Asbestos in Oklahoma

All states have or have had trouble with asbestos because it was used so extensively up until the mid-1970s federal regulations that capped and regulated how and when asbestos could be used or handled. This came after it was finally realized just how harmful this mineral was. Inhaled fibers of asbestos cause illness in many people, years after they were exposed to it and most of these cases of illness are fatal.

In Oklahoma, as in other states, asbestos was used in construction and today poses a health risk for many residents. That old asbestos can be damaged or may deteriorate, exposing harmful fibers. Oklahoma has no natural deposits of asbestos and no history of mining it, but it does have a large oil and gas industry, which uses asbestos and can expose workers. The state is also home to a number of Superfund sites that continue to put residents at risk of being exposed to asbestos in the air, soil, and water. Cleanup efforts are ongoing.

Oil and Gas Industry

Although the state is a major agricultural force, Oklahoma is also one of the country’s biggest producers of oil and natural gas. This has helped the economy of the state thrive, but it has also posed a number of health and environmental problems that residents and workers are still coping with. Drilling operations and refineries use a lot of asbestos, even today, because it is so good at insulating. There is a lot of heat involved in refining oil and gas and there is always a risk of fire. Asbestos has been used extensively in these operations because it can protect against heat and the spread of fires.

Asbestos is not limited to insulation and fireproofing in the oil and gas industry, though. It was also used throughout the machinery and equipment used to drill, transport, and refine oil and gas. Gaskets, brakes, sealants, and other components in machinery and equipment contain asbestos. The buildings that support these operations have also used a lot of asbestos, including in roofing, flooring, insulation, and other materials. Studies of refinery workers from various locations have proven that these workers are more susceptible to asbestos-related illnesses and have higher incidences of mesothelioma than other types of workers.

Superfund Sites

Many refineries and other sites in the state have now been listed as EPA Superfund sites. These are highly-contaminated areas with asbestos and other toxins that put nearby residents at risk of being exposed. One example is the Hudson Refinery in Cushing, Oklahoma. The refinery operated from the 1920s to 1980s when the site was abandoned. The EPA designated it as a Superfund site because of toxic materials, including friable asbestos. Cleanup efforts began in the early 2000s, but as late as 2011, asbestos was still being found and removed.

Another Superfund site in the state is the former Fourth Street Refinery in Oklahoma City. The abandoned facility was contaminated with asbestos and other toxic materials, and cleanup concluded in 2008. The site had been determined to have contaminated ground water and to have put the over 20,000 nearby residents at risk of asbestos exposure. Unfortunately, recent evaluations found that there is still asbestos in the area, and while the EPA is set to remove it in the future, there is no definite date.

Other Job Sites with Asbestos

Oil and gas industries have been responsible for much of the asbestos exposure that residents of Oklahoma have experienced, but not all of it. Other types of jobs put people at risk, including airplane maintenance, power plant workers, vermiculite and asbestos insulation processors, and others:

  • Douglas Aircraft Company, Tulsa
  • American Airlines, Tulsa
  • McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company, Tulsa
  • Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City
  • Midwest Insulation and Material Company, Oklahoma City
  • National Zinc Company, Bartlesville
  • Standard Asbestos Manufacturing and Insulating Company, Oklahoma City
  • Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company, Drumright
  • Duncan Oil Company Refinery, Duncan
  • Cushing Oil Terminal, Cushing
  • Vance Air Force Base, Enid
  • Phillips Petroleum Refinery, Okmulgee

Asbestos Laws in Oklahoma

Several departments in the state work together to ensure that residents and workers are protected from asbestos exposure. The Department of Labor dictates how asbestos should be abated in older buildings under the Oklahoma Asbestos Control Act. This requires that public buildings be inspected for asbestos and that all buildings be inspected in advance of renovation or demolition. The department also licenses contractors to work with asbestos. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality is responsible for ensuring the state follows federal guidelines regarding asbestos contamination, including the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants.

Statute of Limitations

Residents and workers in Oklahoma who were exposed to asbestos and became sick as result of that exposure have just two years from the time of a medical diagnosis to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. Those with loved ones who passed away because of asbestos exposure also have just two years from the time of death to file a wrongful death suit. These statutes of limitations mean that those people harmed by asbestos do not have time to wait. They must act quickly to get justice.

Working with Oklahoma Mesothelioma Lawyers

Because of the short time period for action and because laws surrounding asbestos and filing lawsuits can be complicated, it is best for anyone who has been harmed by exposure to rely on a good Oklahoma mesothelioma lawyer. If you are sick with mesothelioma, your time is limited in more ways than one. It makes sense to work with an experienced professional so you can take action quickly and ensure that your precious time is not wasted. Your lawyer can help you get through all the administrative hoops and can advocate on your behalf to ensure you get the compensation and the justice you deserve.

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