Asbestos exposure is commonly associated with occupation, specifically in mills and plants, but many miss the risks found in everyday products. Even though the Environmental Protection Agency began regulating the use of asbestos products more than thirty years ago, most of these items still linger in the present.
Aside from construction products, including asbestos roofing tiles and insulation, asbestos brakes still pose a threat. The small and thin fibers as well as the heat resistant quality made asbestos the perfect solution to line brakes on virtually all vehicles.
Asbestos bans begin
In the early 1980s, the Scandinavians began removing asbestos from products and instituting a ban. Several car materials, including clutch lining, brake lining and engine gaskets were discontinued and safer substitutes implemented. By 1986, the EPA had imposed a ban in the United States on nearly all products with a plan to have a full ban 10 years later.
Three decades later and asbestos still isn’t banned in the United States.
Asbestos brakes still remain a problem
Despite having alternatives, reports of automakers using asbestos as brake lining come as recent as 1993. Even with all major automakers avoiding its use, other parts manufacturers don’t follow the same guidelines. As a result, the long but tiny fibers can be released into the air, possibly hurting anyone within range.
Brake technicians and anyone who replaces brake pads themselves are at risk based on the dust created as the brakes begin to wear. With use, the asbestos fibers become exposed and can cling to brake parts. In an effort to clean them, the air might blow dangerous concentrations in the breathing space.
After more than a decade of replacing her own brakes, Illinois resident Nancy Surita developed malignant mesothelioma, diagnosed in May of 2015. In response, she’s suing more than 10 businesses for negligence, including Duralast brakes, Cummins engines, Eaton truck brakes and Advance Auto Parts. She, like many, didn’t realize the deadly affects of the asbestos brake lining because companies hid the truth.
What to do if you suspect asbestos brake lining
To protect people from the hazards of asbestos brakes, the EPA recommends taking your vehicle to an automotive shop, where OSHA has specific instructions and guidelines for the technicians to follow to keep safe. If this isn’t possible, use the wet wipe method as instructed by OSHA. It’s important to remove clothing before entering the home after removal to eliminate the risk of asbestos dust entering the house. Never use an air compressor, dry cloth or brush as this may disturb the asbestos.
- AA1 Car, “Asbestos brake dust is still a hazard.” [Link]
- EPA, “Current best practices for preventing asbestos exposure among brake and clutch repair workers,” (March 2007). [Link]
- Harkins, “Couple alleges wife suffers from asbestos-related mesothelioma,” Cook County Record (July 15, 2015). [Link]