Understanding, Managing, and Living with the

Health Effects of Asbestos

Asbestos Drilling Mud and Effect on Public

September 12, 2013

Corvallis, OR Concerns about asbestos drilling mud and the effect it had on engineers and the people working with it are well-documented. Up until the late 1980s, drilling mud contained asbestos, which is a known carcinogen and can cause asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer decades after exposure. Drilling mud itself is used to cool drill bits and flush debris during drilling, and asbestos was added to drilling mud because it was heat resistant.

Mud engineers and other employees in the oil industry may have been exposed to asbestos when it was still used in drilling mud, and as a result, may have developed any one of the previously mentioned fatal conditions. Many of them were not given the proper safety gear and allege they were not warned about the risks of asbestos.

But what about the risks to the public? Granted, asbestos is not used in drilling mud any more, and for good reason. But as a recent incident shows, the public could still have been exposed to asbestos and not realized it, possibly putting them at risk of serious conditions.

The Corvallis Gazette-Times (8/15/13) reports on a drilling mud incident in which bentonite - drilling mud - used in a gas pipeline project entered the Marys River. Although the drilling mud itself is not believed to be hazardous to the environment, it was not clear if any other substances had been mixed with it (although those other substances would not have included asbestos).

As the incident shows, back when asbestos was used in drilling mud, such spills may have exposed people to asbestos without them realizing it.

Another cause of concern is incidental asbestos exposure, experienced by people who did not work with the asbestos themselves but lived with people who did work with the carcinogen. Because the asbestos may have been transported in on the workers’ clothes, people who lived with them - and especially those who did the laundry or came into close contact with the clothing - could have been exposed to asbestos and an increased risk of developing asbestos-related conditions.

Lawsuits have been filed against companies and employers alleging they knew about the risks associated with asbestos exposure but failed to adequately warn employees or to ensure they were given proper safety precautions to limit asbestos exposure.