Understanding, Managing, and Living with the

Health Effects of Asbestos

Asbestos Drilling Mud Lawsuit: Workers “Looked Like Snowmen”

August 21, 2014

Houston, TX Given the amount of concern about the risks of asbestos and products that contain asbestos, such as asbestos drilling mud, some people might assume that asbestos is no longer in use. This, of course, is not the case. And while some products no longer contain asbestos - and workers are meant to be offered protection when they are exposed to items containing asbestos - lawsuits are still being filed alleging workers developed serious, life-threatening complications due to their exposure to drilling mud and other asbestos-containing products.

Part of the problem is that workers have not always been provided proper protections to prevent exposure to asbestos, which is why lawsuits are being filed against employers who allegedly allowed the exposure to occur. Workers allege their employers knew about the risks associated with asbestos exposure but failed to warn their employees about the risks or failed to provide proper safety gear to lessen the risk of exposure.

One such lawsuit was filed in Scotland against Shell, by a man who worked in the North Sea and alleges he was exposed to asbestos dust. According to The Herald (8/13/14), Bill Jones requires two hours of oxygen treatment a day and says he inhaled asbestos thanks to a chemical called Flosal, used in oil drilling. The article notes that Flosal may have contained as much as 95 percent-powdered asbestos.

Jones told The Herald that after the sacks of Flosal were emptied, the room would be covered in powder and he and his colleagues “looked like snowmen within minutes.” He was allegedly exposed to the asbestos in the 1960s and 70s.

Asbestos-related illnesses such as asbestosis and mesothelioma can take decades before showing symptoms. As a result, lawsuits against employers may not be filed for years after the exposure occurs.

One such lawsuit resulted in a $322 million award for plaintiff Thomas Brown, who alleged he inhaled asbestos while mixing drilling mud. That award, however, was vacated late in 2011, after an appointed judge found a potential bias because the trial judge’s father had been involved in an asbestos lawsuit of his own.

Lawsuits are still being filed against employers and companies accused of knowingly putting their workers at risk of asbestos-related diseases and not providing adequate warnings or protections for their workers.