Auto Mechanics Risk Asbestos Exposure

Greater Risk for Asbestos Diseases When Mechanics Fail to Take Proper Precautions

DETROIT, MI-April 12, 2002-Auto mechanics may not be taking proper precautions when repairing asbestos-containing brakes, according to a recent article in the Detroit News (Auto Insider section, March 31, 2002). In a survey of 30 brake mechanics and auto shop owners in metropolitan Detroit, 25 did not consider such special procedures necessary because they incorrectly believe that auto brakes no longer contain asbestos. Yet millions of older cars and trucks with asbestos brakes remain on our roads, and some auto parts stores sell replacement brake parts with asbestos. Also, General Motors Corp. has used asbestos brakes supplied by Delphi Corp. on recent models of Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire cars, according to the Detroit News.

Dust from Asbestos Brakes Becomes Airborne

When brakes are applied, the brake shoe presses against the drum. As an asbestos-containing brake wears, the drums fill with brake dust. When drums are repaired or replaced, asbestos dust is released. In one report, investigators found high levels of asbestos dust in brake repair shops, confirming the degree of the asbestos problem.

Vacuuming the brake residue with a regular shop or home vacuum may only help to spread fine particles of asbestos. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends the use of enclosure equipment and other procedures to prevent the release of asbestos brake dust into the auto shop as much as possible. However, there is no known medically safe level of asbestos exposure.