Asbestos Automotive Parts

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For decades, asbestos was used in automotive parts for cars, military vehicles and other forms of transportation. Products like brakes, gaskets and clutches commonly contained asbestos. This widespread use puts mechanics, manufacturing workers and consumers at risk of developing mesothelioma.

01. Asbestos Use in Automotive Products

Why Was Asbestos Used in Automotive Parts?

Since the early 1900s, automotive parts like brakes, clutches and gaskets have contained asbestos. The mineral was often used for its strength and ability to withstand heat. Asbestos was useful in automotive products because they face high temperatures and friction.

Chrysotile was the most common type of asbestos used by the automotive industry. Products such as drum and disk brakes contained between 35% and 60% chrysotile asbestos.

Asbestos Automotive Products History at a Glance

Asbestos use in the automotive industry puts many auto mechanics and other workers at risk of exposure.

How Automobile Asbestos Exposure Happens

Individuals who handle asbestos automotive materials may risk developing an asbestos illness from exposure. Asbestos exposure can happen during auto part installation and vehicle repairs. For example, mechanics may sand or grind the surface of brakes. These activities create asbestos dust, which mechanics may then inhale. Researchers have found brake mechanics face a high risk of respiratory diseases.

For example, a 2018 study reviewed mesothelioma risk among brake mechanics. Researchers found brake mechanics had a heightened risk of asbestos exposure. The study concluded individuals who perform brake installation and repair were more likely to develop an asbestos illness than the general population.

Removal of asbestos car parts may cause the mineral’s fibers to release into the air. If airborne asbestos is inhaled, it may lead to serious illnesses such as asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma.

02. List of Asbestos Automotive Products

List of Asbestos Automotive Products

For years, many automotive parts and other materials were made with asbestos. Parts like brakes, clutch linings and transmission plates often used asbestos to improve heat resistance. Asbestos also helped increase friction and supported the stopping motion of automobiles.

Production of asbestos-containing transportation and automotive equipment began in the early 1900s. As the dangers of asbestos became known, the mineral became regulated.

Many automotive companies knew the dangers of asbestos but continued to use the mineral. Companies like National Automotive Parts Association (NAPA) sold these asbestos products, putting workers and consumers at risk. These companies later faced hundreds of mesothelioma lawsuits alleging negligence.

03. Automotive Products & Asbestos Exposure

Who Is at Risk of Asbestos Exposure From Automotive Products?

A variety of workers in the automotive industry may have experienced occupational exposure. Workers faced exposure risks at auto repair shops, assembly lines and industrial plants. Home mechanics and automobile enthusiasts may also be exposed to asbestos from do-it-yourself (DIY) work on older cars.

Occupations at Risk of Exposure From Asbestos Automotive Products

Although asbestos use has declined, the mineral may still be present in older vehicles and equipment. In some cases, trace amounts of asbestos may still be used in the production of automotive products. As a result, mechanics, hobbyists and other individuals may still come in contact with these products.

04. Asbestos Lawsuits & Automotive Products

Asbestos Lawsuits, Settlements & Other Compensation

Automotive manufacturers have faced lawsuits from former employees and customers. Through mesothelioma lawsuits, asbestos victims may seek financial compensation. These lawsuits and mesothelioma claims are filed against companies that put individuals at risk by manufacturing and using asbestos-containing products.

After facing a large number of lawsuits, some asbestos companies filed for bankruptcy. As part of bankruptcy proceedings, these companies may establish asbestos trust funds. Eligible individuals may file asbestos trust fund claims to receive compensation.

Compensation Following Exposure From Automotive Products

Successful mesothelioma lawsuits may result in settlements or jury awards. Many individuals exposed to asbestos automotive products have received compensation from asbestos lawsuits.

  • In 2002, an auto worker died from mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos automotive products. During his career, the man worked at General Motors and handled auto parts made by Borg-Warner Automotive Inc. The man’s family members filed a lawsuit against the two companies. They received a jury award of $30.3 million.
  • In 2010, a former heavy machine mechanic was diagnosed with mesothelioma. For years, he repaired bulldozers and other automotive machinery. The man and his wife filed a lawsuit against several companies. They received a $4.5 million jury award.
  • A California man died from mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos-containing brakes. The man’s children filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a retailer that sold asbestos brakes. The man’s children received a settlement of $721,500.

Compensation from a claim or lawsuit may help victims and their loved ones pay for mesothelioma treatment. Compensation may also cover lost wages, travel costs and other expenses.

05. Asbestos Automotive Products Removal

Safely Removing Asbestos Automotive Parts

Since the 1980s, asbestos use in friction products and auto parts has declined. However, asbestos may still be present in some automobiles and machinery.

To prevent asbestos exposure, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published guidelines for brake and clutch removal, disassembly and repair. To remove these asbestos parts, OSHA recommends several methods for professional mechanics:

  • Low pressure/wet cleaning method: Use spray equipment or a spray bottle to wet asbestos auto parts. Collect water runoff in a safe container and wipe brake and clutch parts clean with a cloth. Dispose of the cloth and asbestos waste in an airtight container.
  • Negative-pressure enclosure/HEPA vacuum system method: Use a negative-pressure HEPA vacuum system to contain asbestos fibers. Then use compressed air to remove fibers from the enclosure.

Proper training to perform the brake and clutch removal method is important to prevent asbestos exposure. OSHA recommends amateur mechanics hire professionals to remove asbestos automotive parts.

06. Common Questions

Common Questions About Asbestos Automotive Parts

When did they stop using asbestos in automotive parts?

Companies commonly added asbestos to auto parts before the 1980s. As a result, people face asbestos exposure risk from cars, buses and other vehicles. Anyone exposed may develop mesothelioma. Auto workers at repair shops and industrial plants may have been exposed on the job.

Where is asbestos found in an automotive shop?

Adhesives, gaskets, clutch linings and other vehicle parts in auto shops may contain asbestos. For example, companies may sell imported auto parts that contain asbestos. Automotive workers performing repair and maintenance on older cars may also face exposure risks.

Is asbestos still in brake pads?

Asbestos may still be in brake pads manufactured before the 1980s. The use of asbestos in manufacturing has largely stopped. But workers in the automotive aftermarket industry may still be at risk of exposure from older brake pads. Imported vehicle parts may also contain asbestos.