Louisiana a Hotbed of Asbestos Exposure

January 14, 2021  |  Mesothelioma

The state’s refineries and shipyards played a role in sickening workers and their families.

Louisiana Industrial Asbestos Exposure

Since the first successful oil well was drilled in a small town by the name of Jennings in September 1901, Louisiana’s oil industry has been big business. The gulf state’s proximity to the oil-rich sediment at the mouth of the Mississippi Delta and beneath the Gulf of Mexico eventually gave rise to numerous oil refineries and pipelines, some of which date back almost to the completion of that first well in Jennings. In fact, the oil industry in Louisiana accounts for nearly one-fifth of the nation’s refining capacity. Louisiana’s wells and refineries can process 3.3 million barrels of crude oil per day.

Refineries and Asbestos Exposure

Historically, asbestos components and insulation were widely utilized in oil refineries due to the toxic fiber’s ability to withstand the corrosive properties of gas and petroleum products. Asbestos gaskets and valve-stem packing were used at pipe joints. Asbestos insulation was wrapped around steam pipes traveling through the refineries to power the various refining processes. Employees who worked with or around asbestos-containing materials in these facilities were likely exposed to the airborne fibers and are at risk for developing asbestos related diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer and the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma.

Shipyards and Asbestos Exposure

Louisiana’s coastline along the temperate Gulf of Mexico is home to major shipyards, including Avondale, which has done business in New Orleans since 1938, and Todd, which has operated in Algiers since the 1920s. Asbestos pipe covering and block insulation were commonly installed aboard ships to insulate boilers and steam lines running through sailors’ bunks and other tight quarters. Shipbuilders and shipyard workers were exposed to asbestos from frayed welding blankets, gloves and insulation while building, repairing and maintaining commercial vessels and Navy ships. When sawing, sanding, chiseling and prying off asbestos-containing insulation, gaskets, valve-stem packing and other materials, toxic asbestos fibers became airborne and were inhaled by those nearby, especially in constricted shipboard spaces.

Other Louisiana Industries and Asbestos Exposure

The W.R. Grace Company chose Lake Charles for its synthetic fluid cracking catalyst plant in 1953 because of the site’s close proximity to major oil refining centers in Baton Rouge and Houston. Grace also had a vermiculite exfoliation plant in Metairie. The company used a significant amount of asbestos insulation at its cracking plant and was a major pollutant of asbestos at its exfoliation facility, where asbestos-contaminated vermiculite from the Grace mine in Libby, Montana, was processed, bagged and shipped to customers around the country.

Other types of industrial facilities that employed asbestos insulation and components in their buildings and operations also thrived in Louisiana during the twentieth century, including chemical plants and paper mills. Since the inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to the development of lung cancer and mesothelioma cancer, workers should monitor their health carefully for respiratory and abdominal illnesses.

A Long Latency Period Before Disease Develops

Unlike exposure to most toxins, exposure to asbestos fibers can take decades to develop into disease. The invisible fibers give no indication of their danger when inhaled like other toxins might. The symptoms from having inhaled or ingested asbestos fibers, such as shortness of breath or abdominal pain, do not present themselves for many years, sometimes not for decades. This is called a latency period.

If you worked at an industrial jobsite in Louisiana, even if it was decades ago, and are considering filing a lawsuit for a recent mesothelioma diagnosis, it is important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Baron & Budd can help. Contact us online or call us at 855-280-7664 for a confidential evaluation and to learn more about your legal options.

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