Experts Discuss Occupational Exposure to Toxins in Oil Refinery Workers

    Chemistry Expert WitnessThis case involves a number of workers who claimed that they were exposed to a number of highly toxic substances during their employment at a large petroleum processing facility. The facility in question was undergoing an extensive modernization refit throughout the period during which the alleged exposure occurred, during which time it was claimed that the facility’s fume management system was not functioning properly. The workers alleged that the system was not functioning correctly for several months, during which time they were exposed to high levels of toxic chemicals. The Plaintiffs in this case began to experience a number of neurological symptoms while working at the facility, including depression, balance issues, and numbness and tingling in their extremities. It was alleged that the refinery failed to adequately safeguard worker safety during the modernization program.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Please briefly describe your familiarity with the subject matter described above.
    • 2. Have you ever published or lectured on this subject/issue?
    • 3. Can you speak to the harmful effects of these chemicals and the measures that should have been in place to avoid exposure?

    Expert Witness Response E-000316

    As a toxicologist, I have a wealth of experience in evaluating chemical emissions from oil and gas production, processing, and refining. These chemicals include benzene and other hydrocarbons, sulfur-containing compounds such as hydrogen sulfide, mercaptans, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and other compounds. I have published a chapter on shale oil toxicology in the 3rd Edition of the Encyclopedia of Toxicology, Elsevier Publishing Company, 2014. I have also lectured on the subject in my undergraduate teaching and in toxicology training courses I have conducted. I can definitely opine about the harmful effects of mercaptans and other oil and gas chemicals. I can also discuss personal protection equipment that could be used to limit exposures. I can also comment generally on emission control measures. In this case, it appears that the workers were indeed exposed to unacceptable levels of environmental toxins, however a more thorough investigation is warranted in order to confirm.

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