Resources for Patients and their Families

Cross Oil

Cross Oil was founded in 1923 by Henry H. Cross. The small refinery processes 6,800 barrels of crude oil per day and is located in Smackover, Arkansas. The town of Smackover was a primarily agricultural settlement until the discovery of oil in 1922. Oil discovery led the population of Smackover to greatly increase, almost overnight. Today, Cross Oil's refinery is the largest employer in the town of a little more than 2,000 residents.

Cross Oil's Smackover refinery is a supplier of naphthentic lubricating oils that are mainly used in specialty applications. The refinery supplies base oils and other oil products that are tailored specifically to individual customer bases. Cross oil controls the entire product-making process from the initial shipment of crude oil, to the refining of the product to the final packaging and delivery to customers.

The Martin Companies

Cross Oil is a subsidiary of The Martin Companies Corporation. Martin Resource Management Corporation is an independent provider of several oil-related services including truck and rail transportation, asphalt distribution and storage, fuel oil distribution, industrial chemicals, lubricants, marine fuel supply and oil refining and marketing.

Refinery Disasters

On January 13, 1999, a naptha tank explosion at the Cross Oil refinery resulted in the deaths of three contractor workers as they were working on a tank valve. In March 2009, a retention pond on the property of Cross Oil's Smackover Refinery caught fire due to a film of oil on top of the water. No one was hurt in the fire, and no damage was done to the refinery.

Cross Oil's Smackover Refinery and Asbestos

In much of the 20th century, the mineral called asbestos was used as a building material when flames or excessive heat was a concern. As a result, it was typical for oil refineries like Cross Oil's Smackover refinery to be built with asbestos-containing materials. One of the other properties of some forms of asbestos is that they are unaffected by chemical reactions. Floor tiles, insulation, benches, even protective garments, therefore, commonly contained the fibrous mineral. Asbestos, however, had a significant downside that was either not understood or sometimes deliberately ignored: serious and sometimes lethal medical conditions were caused by exposure to asbestos.

In general, amosite was the variety of asbestos utilized. Often called "brown asbestos", the amphibole form of asbestos known as amosite is especially good at resisting corrosive chemicals like those produced in plants like Cross Oil's Smackover refinery because of the iron molecules in its chemical makeup. Used for decades in the form of asbestos-containing transite in laboratories and refineries across the United States, amosite was finally disallowed for construction purposes in the 1970s.

Like cement, asbestos transite could be laminated, molded into working surfaces and sprayed onto ductwork and pipes. As a rule, new items formed from transite were considered innocuous since the asbestos fibers were trapped in the transite. As asbestos-containing transite gets older and become prone to crumbling, however, lethal, microscopic particles are able to float into the air. In other words, such asbestos is friable, which translates to easy to crush. In addition, laboratory and chemical plant ovens frequently were constructed with friable asbestos as part of their insulation linings.

Why Friable Asbestos Is a Problem

Friable asbestos is hazardous since in this state the fibers are easily dispersed into the environment. When a person breathes these particles, they can harm the lungs, resulting in cancer. Another rare, and often fatal, disease linked to asbestos is a type of cancer called mesothelioma. The pleural form of mesothelioma, which attacks the lining between the lungs and the chest cavity, is the most common. When the airborne particles settle on food or drinks and are then swallowed, peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma may occur, though they are less common than pleural mesothelioma.

In the last few decades medical researchers have discovered a lot about the risks that accompany asbestos exposure, and therefore there are stringent guidelines regulating its use. Asbestos use was much more prevalent, however, when places like Cross Oil's Smackover refinery were built. And even now, asbestos from the past can cause danger if it is not disposed of properly during demolition projects.

The Hidden Hazard of Asbestos

Unlike many work-related injuries, which are easily observed and known about immediately following the causing incident, asbestos-related illnesses can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to manifest. When a former worker begins developing signs such as dyspnea (i.e., shortness of breath) and a chronic cough, his or her doctor might not at first recognize asbestos as a cause, leading to delays in diagnosis. It is vital, therefore, that all that were employed by or spent much time around plants like Cross Oil's Smackover refinery notify their physicians about the chance of asbestos exposure. Such information can help physicians make a timely diagnosis; especially with mesothelioma, the sooner it is diagnosed, the better the odds of surviving or at the least of improved quality of life. Those who have been negligently exposed to asbestos while working should contact a mesothelioma attorney.



City of Smackover - City Website

Cross Oil - Refining and Marketing

Cross Oil - History

El Dorado News - Fire at Refinery

National Response Team - Cross Oil Refinery

The Martin Companies - Corporate Website

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal

Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog



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