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Asbestos Exposure on Auto Mechanics


Automobile mechanics disassemble and replace automotive parts containing asbestos and consequently are at serious risk of asbestos exposure even today. While the use of asbestos in automobile friction products is declining, asbestos may be present in both old and new clutch assemblies and brakes linings. Auto service technicians and automobile mechanics who breathe air containing asbestos dust or asbestos fibers are at risk of developing mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs or abdominal cavity. Workplace exposure to asbestos may increase the amount of asbestos fibers that accumulate in a mechanic’s lungs. Symptoms of mesothelioma and respiratory disease may not appear for decades after exposure to asbestos.

Many auto mechanics and auto service technicians may be unaware that new cars and trucks as well as older vehicles may have parts containing asbestos. Some auto parts manufacturers still use asbestos in car and truck clutch facings and other components, including brake drum linings and disk pads.  If a clutch lining must be drilled, grooved or cut, that can release millions of microscopic particles of asbestos into the air. The asbestos dust may remain in the air, in the auto garage and on clothing long after the job is done.

Auto mechanics or garage owners may be reluctant to change work habits and thereby increase exposure to asbestos dust, by using an air hose or compressed air to blow asbestos out of clutching linings or brake pads. Performing a clutch job, disassembling a brake drum, assembling a brake or grinding or cutting friction materials may disperse millions of asbestos fibers into the air, allowing the toxic fibers to be inhaled or ingested.

Auto mechanics should assume that all clutch linings contain asbestos and that all brakes have asbestos. Worn brake shoes that do not contain asbestos cannot be easily distinguished from asbestos-containing brake shoes. Auto repair shops should use proper dust control procedures to minimize exposure of auto mechanics and auto service technicians to asbestos. The OSHA-recommended methods of controlling asbestos dust in auto garages are negative pressure high efficiency vacuum systems or, in shops that perform five or fewer clutch or brake jobs a week, low pressure/wet cleaning dust control systems.

Asbestos fibers tend to stick to grease on an auto mechanics hands. You may swallow asbestos fibers when eating or smoking a cigarette. It’s important to wash your hands before eating and practice good personal hygiene to reduce exposure to asbestos.

Mesothelioma has been diagnosed in auto mechanics, their wives and their children.

Auto mechanics should avoid taking home work clothes that may be covered with asbestos fibers. Shower and change into clean clothes before leaving work to prevent transport of asbestos dust to your home on clothing or skin and reduce exposure of your family members to lingering asbestos particles. Unfortunately, family members of auto mechanics and auto service technicians are at risk of developing mesothelioma as a result of second-hand exposure.

Most of the 3,000 people diagnosed with mesothelioma in the U.S. each year were exposed to asbestos on the job at some point. Symptoms of asbestos-related respiratory disease, including asbestosis, a chronic scarring of the lung, and mesothelioma, typically take 20 to 40 years to appear after exposure. Auto mechanics exposed to asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s may only recently have been diagnosed or begun experiencing symptoms of asbestos-related disease such as chest pain, fluid on the lungs, and shortness of breath.

Unfortunately, asbestos manufacturers and auto parts manufacturers knew or should have known that the products they were selling caused serious harm. Yet, they allowed millions of workers, including automobile mechanics and auto repair technicians, to be exposed to a deadly carcinogen.

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