Asbestos in Clutch Linings
Asbestos in Clutch Linings
Clutch linings are a type of friction material, similar to brake linings. They have a much different function, however; a clutch is used to transfer the motion of one mechanical component to another by keeping two surfaces in contact. The clutch lining is what prevents these two surfaces from slipping.
Today's clutch linings are usually made from fiberglass, kevlar or some type of metal. Throughout most of the 20th century however, clutch linings were made from asbestos. According to the author of an informational website on Ford products, "asbestos provides superior cushioning and better wear" than the modern materials currently in use today.
Regulations in the U.S. that would have made the use and manufacture of asbestos clutch linings illegal have been overturned in federal courts; however, as knowledge of the health hazards of asbestos has become widespread, market forces have more or less ended the domestic manufacture of asbestos products. However, there are no laws that prevent the import of asbestos clutch linings and other friction products into the U.S.
The manufacturers of asbestos friction products continue to operate overseas. Moreover, there are no regulations in the U.S. that require the labeling of these products. Two major companies still in the business are Standard Friction Ltd. of Mumbhai, India and SafetyWay, located in Jiangsu, China. Asbestos exposure continues to be a hazard for auto mechanics and people who work on their own vehicles.
The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries recommends that when working with clutch linings and other friction products, auto repair workers either use a HEPA-filter equipped respirator and/or a container in which such materials can be dampened with a solution of water and detergent. Because secondary exposure is also a hazard, it is highly recommended that such workers shower and change clothes prior to leaving the workplace or entering the home, and that work clothes be laundered separately.
Hazards Associated with Clutch Lining Products
Auto mechanics and home automotive hobbyists who work on their own cars are at significant risk of asbestos exposure from working on asbestos-contaminated clutch linings. When an automobile clutch fails or begins to wear, the lining can become worn and frayed and loose asbestos can very easily come free and enter the air where they can be inhaled. In addition to this risk, the workers in manufacturing plants producing these linings are undoubtedly exposed to large quantities of asbestos dust as they work the raw asbestos materials in milling machines while creating the clutch linings.Sources
Benjamin, Bill. "Clutch Info."
(http://www.btc-bci.com/~billben/clutch.htm) Retrieved 2 January 2011.
Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos (New York: Touchstone, 2003)