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Automotive Brake Specialists Need to be Mindful of Asbestos Exposure

asbestos exposure Use of asbestos in the U.S. reached its peak during the 1970s. The material appeared in such a wide range of products, asbestos exposure was a hazard that followed everyday people everywhere, from the insulation in their homes to the vermiculite in their gardens.

As if that weren’t enough, try to imagine having a job in which you had to work with asbestos on a regular basis. To this day, asbestos exposure is still a risk for individuals who work in certain sectors, such as construction.

At Kazan, McClain, Satterley, & Greenwood we do everything we can to educate people about how to avoid asbestos, particularly if they have regular contact with the material. One group of professionals that may be particularly at risk is automotive brake specialists.

Asbestos Exposure and the Regulation of Brake Parts

The physical properties of asbestos once made it a popular component of car brakes in the U.S. However, growing awareness of the relationship between asbestos and potentially fatal diseases such as malignant mesothelioma is driving a phase-out of the material from car brakes.

One team of researchers from California conducted a study in order to determine how many cars had brakes that were made with asbestos. For the experiment, they collected samples of the brake linings from 137 light- and medium-duty vehicles and 54 heavy-duty vehicles. They didn’t find any asbestos within the latter group. Among the light- and medium-duty cars, 3 percent of brake shoes used a chrysotile asbestos-containing model that is currently being phased out.

California law requires that asbestiform be present at only trace levels in brakes by 2014. Similarly, Washington state has the Better Brakes Law, which calls for the gradual elimination of copper, asbestos and heavy metals from brakes sold in Washington. Certification of environmentally friendly products will begin in January 2013.

However, no federal regulations on car brakes exist.

Protecting Mechanics from Asbestos Exposure

Whether mechanics are working out of their own home or a commercial garage, they have to be sure to protect themselves from asbestos.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has several tips:

  • Use the low pressure water sprays to wet the brakes and clutch, which can then be wiped with a cloth.
  • Use ready-to-install parts (whenever possible) that have been ground down by the manufacturer
  • If drilling, cutting or other methods that can disturb the asbestos are required, use low-speed settings.
  • Remove work clothes before going home. Launder these items separately.
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