Although the drilling mud used on offshore and land-based oil and natural gas rigs today is mostly a nontoxic blend of water and bentonite clay, it can still be problematic. And even otherwise innocuous incidents involving drilling mud can remind us of the not-so-distant past, when asbestos was a primary ingredient—an ingredient whose dangers are still felt today. Late last week, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection shut down work on a 33-mile natural gas pipeline after approximately 100 gallons of drilling mud were discharged into an adjacent stream. It was at least the fourth drilling mud spill along the pipeline since July 29. The environmental impact of those drilling mud eruptions is still being studied, although no immediate adverse effects were reported. However, from the 1960s through late 1980s the mere handling of drilling mud in day-to-day rig work posed a severe risk. In fact, pretty much anyone who worked on an Alabama oil rig through 1989 was probably exposed to asbestos-based drilling mud. Drilling mud is used to flush debris from the hole and cool the drill bit while boring; asbestos was a popular additive to drilling mud due to its heat resistance and bonding properties. Asbestos, however, is also toxic. Even worse, it can take decades for the resulting medical problems associated with asbestos exposure to become detectable. One of the most common—and most deadly—conditions tied to asbestos is mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that targets the tissue surrounding many vital organs, including the lungs and heart. If you or a family member worked with drilling mud during the 1960s through the 1980s and suffer from asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma, please contact the Mobile, Alabama, asbestos exposure attorneys at Long & Long for your free case evaluation.

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