Mesothelioma in Oil Refinery Workers

Oil refinery workers have historically been exposed to asbestos as part of their jobs. Asbestos-containing products were used on oil rigs for decades. Oil refinery workers exposed to asbestos could develop mesothelioma 10-50 years later, but help is available for those affected.

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Mesothelioma and Oil Refinery Workers Explained

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) includes oil refineries in its list of businesses that exposed people to asbestos, a cancer-causing substance.

Oil refineries are specialized industrial plants that turn crude oil, which comes from out of the ground, into diesel fuel and gasoline.

Oil refinery workerUnfortunately, many oil refineries relied on asbestos prior to the early 1980s. In fact, up to 9 out of 10 oil refinery workers were exposed to asbestos, according to the medical journal Toxicology and Industrial Health. More than 50% of these workers were exposed without any protection.

Because of this, oil refinery personnel who worked with asbestos are at a high risk of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related diseases today.

Thankfully, help is available for oil refinery workers with mesothelioma. Workers can pursue medical care, financial aid, and benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Private benefits are also available for civilians. Learn more with our Free Veterans Packet.

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Why Was Asbestos Used by Oil Refineries?

Oil must be boiled in order to be refined. Because the boiling is done at such a high temperature, asbestos was used to protect many of the mechanical parts used at refineries.

Did You Know?

Asbestos reduced the risk of fires and it also prevented workers from getting burns.

Oil refinery workers were responsible for sanding, cutting, and handling materials made from asbestos. These materials gave off asbestos dust that workers then could inhale.

Being exposed to asbestos on a daily basis greatly increases the risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases later in life.

How Were Oil Refinery Workers Exposed to Asbestos?

Asbestos was used throughout oil refineries for decades, putting workers at risk in many ways.

On oil refinery sites, asbestos could be found in:

  • Buildings: Structures throughout oil refinery sites relied on asbestos, as it was commonly used in buildings for decades on end.
  • Insulation: Asbestos was used between the 1930s and early 1980s as an insulator in oil refinery factories because it is non-flammable. Boilers and pipes were just a few of many products in oil refineries that contained asbestos insulation.
  • Protective Equipment:  There was such high heat involved in working at an oil refinery, so workers were often given personal protective equipment that was made from asbestos.
  • Refinery Equipment: Asbestos was used in gaskets, sealants, and other equipment. As workers made repairs to these products, they could disturb asbestos and unknowingly inhale it.
Not sure how you were exposed to asbestos?

Call (877) 450-8973 now.

Our team can help if you have mesothelioma.

Oil Refinery Workers at Risk of Mesothelioma

Anyone who worked in a refinery may have been exposed to asbestos and could develop mesothelioma.

Oil refinery workers at risk of mesothelioma include:

  • Boilermakers
  • Engineers
  • Electricians
  • Millwrights
  • Pipefitters
  • Welders

Oil refinery workers with the greatest risk of mesothelioma worked with or around asbestos-based products on a daily basis for months or years on end.

Sadly, the medical journal Toxicology and Industrial Health notes that oil refinery workers weren't warned of the risks that asbestos posed and that most workers didn't have access to proper protective equipment.

Modern-Day Oil Refinery Asbestos Risks

According to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 34,000 people working in oil refineries today.

However, some oil refinery personnel are still at risk of asbestos exposure if they work in older refineries and proper protective equipment isn't used. This is because older products and buildings in these refineries may still contain asbestos.

Did You Know?

In 2021, the investigative news company Reuters reported on a now-closed refinery in Pennsylvania. The refinery had "enough pipeline to connect you from here to Florida," and most of it was wrapped in asbestos, according to a renovator.

Further, in the early 2000s, the Easy Serve Oil Refinery Site in Shallow Water, Kansas, was listed as an EPA Superfund site due to asbestos contamination. Asbestos was buried at the refinery illegally, and many of its buildings also contained asbestos.

The EPA removed all the buried asbestos and either sealed or removed asbestos-based products within the buildings.

Mesothelioma & Oil Refinery Workers: Get Help Now

Because so many were exposed to asbestos in oil refineries and got sick, there are several different ways to get help.

Oil refinery workers with mesothelioma can access:

  • Care from top doctors: Though mesothelioma only affects about 3,000 people per year, oncologists (cancer doctors) across the country can treat it.
  • Compensation: Companies made and sold asbestos-containing products for decades despite knowing the risks. By filing private claims against these companies, you can receive financial compensation. Mesothelioma claims often pay out $1 million or more.
  • VA benefits: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers low-cost or free health care and monthly financial aid to veterans with mesothelioma.

Our team can help you and your family get all the benefits and compensation you deserve. Get a Free Veterans Packet to learn more.

FAQs About Mesothelioma & Oil Refinery Workers

What are the health risks of working at an oil refinery?

An oil refinery can expose workers to many hazardous chemicals. Before the 1980s, one of the most dangerous substances used in oil refineries was asbestos.

Asbestos was used in oil refineries to insulate various structures and equipment. However, asbestos fibers can break off from these assets and enter the air.

Anyone that inhales asbestos is at risk of mesothelioma and other deadly illnesses 10-50 years later.

What are the diseases caused by oil refinery asbestos exposure?

If you were exposed to asbestos at an oil refinery, you may be at risk of developing:

  • Asbestosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Other asbestos-related diseases

Thankfully, you may qualify for financial aid and medical care following a diagnosis. Call (877) 450-8973 now to learn more.

What should I do if I might have mesothelioma from working at an oil refinery?

See a doctor as soon as possible if you're concerned about mesothelioma. Tell them about any symptoms that you are having, and also note when, where, and how you were exposed to asbestos (if you remember).

Doctors can recommend tests to diagnose you and can recommend treatment options if you have mesothelioma.

Getting an early mesothelioma diagnosis is key as if the cancer is caught before it spreads, you'll have more treatment options available.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

  1. National Library of Medicine. "Dangerous and cancer-causing properties of products and chemicals in the oil refining and petrochemical industry: Part V--asbestos-caused cancers and exposure of workers in the oil refining industry." Retrieved from: Accessed on March 20, 2024.
  2. Reuters. "150 years of spills: Philadelphia Refinery cleanup highlights toxic legacy of Fossil Fuels." Retrieved from: Accessed on March 20, 2024.
  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Petroleum Pump System Operators, refinery operators, and gaugers." Retrieved from: Accessed on March 20, 2024.
  4. U.S. Energy Information Administration. "Oil and petroleum products explained." Retrieved from: Accessed on March 20, 2024.
  5. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Easy Serve Oil Refinery Asbestos Site Profile." Retrieved from: Accessed on March 20, 2024.
  6. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Site Pollution Report: Easy Serve Oil Refinery Site, Shallow Water, Kansas." Retrieved from: Accessed on March 20, 2024.