Political Pressure Keeps the Asbestos Safety Bulletin Available to the Public
WASHINGTON, DC - December 22, 2006 - A safety advisory about auto mechanics, asbestos in brakes and asbestos-containing clutches will not be pulled from the web site of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) according to a recent article in the Baltimore Sun. The agency has also decided not to suspend or fire Ira Wainless, the author of the bulletin.
Last month, some officials within OSHA threatened Mr. Wainless with suspension if he did not water down the bulletin, which contains strong warnings about the hazards of asbestos brakes (Baltimore Sun, November 20, 2006). John Henshaw, a former OSHA director who now represents the auto industry, tried to pressure the agency to withdraw the bulletin altogether. The auto industry has long held that asbestos in brakes does not affect the health of mechanics, despite expert medical opinion and studies to the contrary.
Edwin Foulke Jr., the current head of OSHA, has now announced that the agency will keep the bulletin and lift the proposed suspension of Mr. Wainless (Baltimore Sun, December 17, 2006). These actions may very well be the result of media coverage, negotiations with the labor union representing Mr. Wainless and the ire of consumer groups and some Congressmen.
Auto Mechanics Should Assume That All Brakes Contain Asbestos
The OSHA advisory tells mechanics to assume that all brakes contain asbestos because a mere visual inspection does not indicate which brakes include asbestos and which do not. Millions of cars and trucks still have asbestos-containing brakes and clutches, which were routinely used in older vehicles. Also, imports of asbestos brakes have increased 83% over the past decade.
Breathing in asbestos dust can lead to asbestosis, asbestos lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma, an aggressive and painful cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs. Mechanics do not develop these diseases until decades after their initial exposure to asbestos, so they may not realize the extent of the damage to their health. They may also have the mistaken idea that asbestos has been banned.
For further information, see the OSHA issued safety bulletin with best practices for dealing with asbestos dust from brakes and clutches.
Asbestos and Your Legal Rights
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