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Between 1999 and 2013 nearly 2,000 Oklahomans died from illnesses 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 helped keep asbestos exposure at a minimum. The Sooner State is also a big oil and natural gas producer, and these industries accounted for much asbestos exposure. Other workplaces exposed workers and several Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund sites put residents at risk.
Asbestos in Oklahoma
All states have or have had trouble with asbestos because it was used extensively until the mid-1970s, when federal regulations restricted its use after its dangers became widely known. Inhaled fibers of asbestos cause illness in many people, years after they were exposed to it. Most of these illnesses 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
Oklahoma is one of the country’s biggest producers of oil and natural gas, which helps the economy thrive, but creates health and environmental problems. Drilling and refineries use a lot of asbestos, even today, because it is a good insulator. 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 protects 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 in 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 also used a lot of asbestos in roofing, flooring, insulation, and other materials. Studies of refinery workers from various locations show they are more susceptible to asbestos-related illnesses and have higher incidences of mesothelioma than other workers.
Many refineries and other places in Oklahoma have been listed as EPA Superfund sites. These are highly-contaminated areas with asbestos and other toxins that put nearby residents at risk. The Hudson Refinery in Cushing 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 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 contaminated ground water and put 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 Oklahomans experienced, but not all of it. Other jobs put people at risk, including airplane mechanics, 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 ensure that residents and workers are protected from asbestos. The Department of Labor dictates how asbestos should be abated in older buildings under the Oklahoma Asbestos Control Act. This requires public buildings be inspected for asbestos and that all buildings be checked before renovation or demolition. The department also licenses contractors to work with asbestos. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality ensures 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 exposed to asbestos who 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 died 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 period for action and because asbestos laws and lawsuits are 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. 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.
Page Written by Rod De Llano, Esquire
Rod De Llano was born and raised in Laredo, Texas. He graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in Economics, and earned a law degree from the University of Texas. After working for an international law firm for several years, Rod formed a law firm dedicated to representing persons injured by exposure to asbestos products. For over 20 years, Rod has fought for persons diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. His clients have recovered over $1 billion over the years.