An auto mechanic is exposed to a variety of hazards in the repair shop: Slip and fall accidents caused by spilled motor oil, cuts and bruises from mishandling tools. But a lesser known danger for auto mechanics is asbestos.
Many auto parts, including brakes, clutches and heat seals, contain or in the past contained asbestos. When mechanics change brakes, clutches and gaskets, the asbestos may escape into the air and onto the clothes of the auto mechanics. Since repair shops also are notorious for poor indoor air quality and circulation, the combination of inadequate air flow and free-floating asbestos particles makes this occupation especially dangerous.
In the automotive manufacturing and repair industries, brake pads were historically one of the most common sources of asbestos exposure. Automotive brakes were not the only friction products to contain asbestos. Railroad brakes and virtually any heavy machinery that required a method of stopping motion had asbestos brakes.
Although the health hazards of asbestos became public knowledge many years ago, asbestos dust continues to be a hazard in brake applications. While US automakers claim that asbestos materials are no longer used in friction products, foreign manufacturers of after-market brake products continue to use asbestos materials.
When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or damaged, they release a dust filled with microscopic asbestos fibers into the air. As a result, the very nature of brake and clutch functions causes continual abrasion, and this releases the imbedded asbestos fibers. A large portion of the toxic material is trapped inside the brake housing or clutch space, and is then released when replacement or repair work is performed. This occurs mostly when mechanics use air hoses to blow off the brake assembly.
Anyone working with brakes, clutches and gaskets is encouraged to utilize protection.
Workers exposed to asbestos from brakes, clutches and gaskets have developed asbestosis, cancer and mesothelioma. If you have developed illness that you believe may be related to your exposures to brake dust, please contact our office.
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