Understanding, Managing, and Living with the

Health Effects of Asbestos

Asbestos Mud Drilling Exposes Workers to Serious Health Problems

August 9, 2013

New Orleans, LA Imagine working with a material you were told was safe only to be told later it contained a carcinogen that could cause serious health problems. That is the issue facing many a mud engineer, people who worked with drilling mud, which often has asbestos mixed in. Despite working with a carcinogen, many of the people who worked with drilling mud did so without any protective gear, greatly increasing the chance of their developing asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma.

Asbestos is used in a wide range of products, and workers in many industries - including construction, oil and mechanical - have been exposed to the carcinogen. Drilling mud is used during oil drilling to flush debris. Mud engineers are the people responsible for preparing the mud, including mixing material. Because asbestos was mixed in with drilling mud, these mud engineers were repeatedly and routinely exposed to asbestos, without the proper safety gear in place and without any knowledge of what they were exposing their bodies to.

Some mud engineers say they often opened sacks of asbestos in small rooms, and likely breathed it in when the particles were airborne. Employees may have been exposed to asbestos over the course of decades. Unfortunately, it can also take decades for symptoms of asbestos-related health problems to arise, and once they do, there is very little that can be done for the patient.

According to information from the University of Wyoming, asbestos is used because it is abundant, inexpensive, strong, durable, flexible and resistant to chemicals. It has been used in a wide range of products, including insulation, roofing tar and cement pipes.

If asbestos remains intact, sealed and undisturbed, it is not a health risk. But when the fibers are air-borne, they can be inhaled by people in the vicinity, entering the person’s lungs and possibly causing serious health problems.

Lawsuits have been filed against some of the companies responsible for asbestos drilling mud. Some of those lawsuits have resulted in verdicts in the plaintiff’s favor, although one landmark award of $322 million was overturned by the judge and later came back with a verdict for the defense.