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For decades, asbestos was used in transportation and automotive materials. Products such as brakes and clutches were frequently made with asbestos. These products may still be present in some vehicles. Widespread use puts mechanics, manufacturers and other workers at risk of asbestos diseases.


01. Asbestos Use in Automotive Products

Why Was Asbestos Used in Automotive Materials?

Since the early 1900s, many automotive parts have contained asbestos. For example, asbestos was used in brakes, clutches and gaskets.

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 – 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. During installation and repair, mechanics may sand or grind the surface of brakes. These activities created asbestos dust.

Removal of asbestos automotive parts may also 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.

Dangers of Asbestos in Automotive Products

Individuals who handle asbestos automotive materials may risk developing an asbestos illness. Researchers have found brake mechanics are at a particularly high risk of respiratory diseases.

For example, a 2018 study reviewed mesothelioma risk among brake mechanics. Researchers found brake mechanics were at 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.

02. List of Asbestos Automotive Products

List of Asbestos Automotive Products

For years, many automotive parts and other materials have been made with asbestos. Brakes, clutch linings and transmission plates often used asbestos to improve heat resistance. Asbestos helped increase friction and support 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. These negligent companies later faced hundreds of mesothelioma lawsuits.

Companies That Produced Asbestos Automotive Products

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 risked exposure at auto repair shops, assembly lines and industrial plants.

Occupations at Risk of Exposure From Asbestos Automotive Products

Home mechanics and automobile enthusiasts may also be exposed to asbestos while working on older cars. These individuals often don’t own the proper protective equipment.

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 and other individuals may still come in contact with these products.

04. Asbestos Lawsuits

Asbestos Lawsuits, Settlements & Other Compensation

Automotive manufacturers have faced lawsuits from former employees and customers. Through a mesothelioma lawsuit, asbestos victims may seek financial compensation.

In many cases, asbestos lawsuits and claims are filed against negligent companies. These companies put individuals at risk by manufacturing and/or using asbestos 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 an asbestos trust fund claim to receive compensation.

Compensation Following Exposure From Automotive Products

Successful mesothelioma lawsuits may result in a settlement or jury award. Many individuals exposed to asbestos automotive products have successfully filed lawsuits.

  • In 2002, an auto worker died from mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos automotive products. During his career, the man worked at General Motors (GM) and handled auto parts made by Borg-Warner Automotive, Inc. The man’s family filed a lawsuit against the two companies. They received a jury award of $30.3 million.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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 funeral 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:

  • Negative-pressure enclosure/HEPA vacuum system method: Use a negative-pressure HEPA vacuum system to contain asbestos fibers.
  • 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.

Proper training to perform the brake and clutch removal method is important to prevent asbestos exposure. OSHA does not recommend amateur mechanics remove asbestos automotive parts.

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