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Brake Pads

Asbestos in Brake Pads

In the automotive manufacturing and repair industries, brake pads were historically one of the most common sources of asbestos exposure. Automotive brakes were not the only friction products to contain asbestos; railroad brakes and virtually any heavy machinery that required a method of stopping motion. All of these braking applications use brake pads as part of their operation.

In automotive, heavy truck and railroad brake pads, asbestos was quite useful; the heat generated by stopping a heavy vehicle could exceed 2500 degrees Fahrenheit, creating a substantial fire hazard (as demonstrated when truckers' brakes begin to smoke on a steep downgrade). Although the health hazards of asbestos became public knowledge in 1977, asbestos dust continues to be a hazard in brake pad applications. Although domestic automakers claim that asbestos materials are no longer used in friction products, foreign manufacturers of after-market brake pads are under no economic or regulatory pressure to cease using asbestos materials. In addition, there are no laws on the books that require such products that contain asbestos to be labeled as such.

As recently as 2000, an investigation by two Seattle reporters revealed that dust collected from over thirty urban auto repair facilities across the nation contained anywhere from two to sixty-three percent asbestos. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that automotive repair personnel take appropriate precautions by using a wet cleaning solution or enclosure when working with brake components.

Brake Pads Products Containing Asbestos

The following partial list of brake pads products were known to contain asbestos:

Product Name Start Year End Year
Allied Signal Friction King Disc Brake Pads 1979 1987
Bendix Disc Brake Pads 1963 1988
Ferodo Brake Pads 1923 1998

Hazards Associated with Brake Pad Products

Auto mechanics working on vehicles that use brake pads containing asbestos fibers are at risk for asbestos exposure. In addition, mechanics who worked in previous decades were also at risk for exposure, particularly as even domestic brake pads at that time contained asbestos. Auto parts workers have a mild risk of asbestos exposure when they move or come into contact with new brake pads that contain asbestos, while workers in brake pad plants (mostly overseas) are also presented with asbestos exposure risk.



Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos (New York: Touchstone, 2003)

Schneider, Andrew and Carol Smith. "Nation's Mechanics At Risk From Asbestos." Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 16 November 2000.

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