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National Automotive Parts Association

National Automotive Parts Association Company History

The National Automotive Parts Association (NAPA) is a supplier of replacement parts and equipment for the automotive repair, collision, heavy-duty truck and industrial markets. The company was founded in 1925 – at a time when the need for auto parts was growing fast – and continues to operate as a “retailers’ cooperative,” distributing parts to both corporately and independently owned auto parts stores. The NAPA network – denoted by the company’s unmistakable yellow and blue logo – consists of 6,000 auto part stores, 69 distribution centers and 13,000 affiliated Napa AutoCare repair shops. NAPA has a vast inventory, with more than 320,000 parts in stock on any given day.

Products Manufactured by National Automotive Parts Association that Contained Asbestos

All vehicles, from cars to trucks to forklifts, contain brakes, devices that use friction to bring vehicles to a stop. Generally a brake consists of a brake lining on a metal backing; when we step on the brakes of our cars, that brake lining presses up against a metal disc or drum attached to the wheel to bring the vehicle to a stop. Because this process lets off a great deal of heat, brake linings have to be built to withstand very high temperatures. For much of the 20th century, manufacturers solved this problem by adding asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral with excellent heat-resistant qualities, into their brake linings.

It wasn’t just brake linings, either. Asbestos was used in clutch linings and transmission parts, as well as numerous products unrelated to automobiles – home repair products, insulation, even cigarettes. In fact, asbestos was considered something of a Godsend to manufacturers for much of the 20th century. The substance was strong, versatile and durable; it was resistant to heat, helped stop the spread of fire, and best of all, it was cheap. What manufacturers didn’t know at the time was that asbestos is also deadly: The mineral is comprised of tiny crystalline fibers that, if they become airborne, can easily be inhaled and cause lung diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma. Asbestos products are most hazardous when they age, crack or become brittle, releasing fibers into the air.

National Automotive Parts Association was one of thousands of companies to manufacture or distribute asbestos-containing automotive products. The following is a list of NAPA products believed to have contained asbestos:

  • Brake linings
  • Clutch linings

Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

Auto mechanics are the people most likely to have been affected by asbestos in NAPA products, especially those who worked during or before the 1970s or who work on vintage automobiles today. Brake repairs are extremely common; many mechanics work on brakes every day, removing and replacing old linings that may have become worn and brittle. This process often involved sanding or grinding down brake parts made of asbestos, releasing even more hazardous asbestos dust into the air. And as anyone who has ever worked on a car knows, it can be difficult to escape dust or fumes when working in a confined space.

Retail employees who worked in a NAPA-affiliated parts store could also have been exposed to the harmful products, as well as factory workers who assembled the brake and clutch products, and car owners who performed their own maintenance work at home.

Recent News

As of April 2011, the National Automotive Parts Association had been named as a defendant in numerous lawsuits by plaintiffs who say they were diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease because of exposure to NAPA parts.

Sources
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog

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