Asbestos, now known to cause mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined out of the earth. Asbestos was used in many industries and for a variety of different purposes, but its use was widely discontinued in the late 1970s. Up until the year 2000, however, it was still common practice in the automotive industry to manufacture and to use brake linings that contained asbestos. As a result, many auto and brake mechanics, as well as those in the immediate vicinity where brake work was conducted were put at serious risk for developing mesothelioma.
Brake pads and linings experience disturbances in transit and in handling that cause fibers to shed and settle at the bottom of the box they are packaged in. When a box of brand new asbestos-containing brake linings is opened, dust is released and inhaled. This is the mechanic's first exposure to asbestos in the brake replacement process. However, a mechanic's exposure surely doesn't end here.
A "blowout" is a common practice used during the brake replacement process that exposed numerous auto and brake mechanics and machinists to asbestos. A blowout is the practice of using compressed air to remove dust either caused by the removal of old brake linings and/or during the installation of new brake linings. When a new brake pad or lining is installed, it is typically ground or hand sanded in order to ensure a proper fit against the drum. The lining may also be drilled in order to insert place-holding rivets, which also creates dust. Notably, "bench-grinding of brake linings causes one of the highest concentrations of airborne asbestos fibers"1. Using compressed air to blowout the asbestos-laden dust is a process that is fast, efficient and thorough. This process causes dust to become airborne, putting any person in relative proximity to the blowout at risk of inhaling asbestos fibers.
In 1986, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published "The Gold Book," which outlines health risks posed to mechanics when they perform blowouts and bench grinding. With regard to the blowout process, "The Gold Book" states, "Using a compressed air hose to clean drum brakes can release up to 16 million asbestos fibers in the cubic meter of air around a mechanics face"2. In addition, "Background or area sampling during the same operation shows that, at least fourteen minutes after jet air blowing and up to 75 ft. away, asbestos concentrations are still measurable even by optical microscopy. It is evident that any person 65-75 ft. away can be exposed"3. "When grinding is done to renew used brake block linings, concentrations of up to seven million asbestos fibers per cubic meter can be released"4. To put all of this in even greater perspective, it takes 24 hours for a single asbestos fiber to float its way to the ground, and there is absolutely no safe limit when it comes to inhaling asbestos fibers. In other words, whether an individual inhales one fiber or sixteen million fibers, they are still at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.
The attorneys at Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the type and variety of asbestos-containing brake products. Our clients understand the importance of securing legal representation as soon as possible after a diagnosis of mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you or a loved one were once employed at an auto-shop or replaced motor vehicle brakes, and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.
1. Lorimer, W.V., Rohl, A.N., Miller, A., Nicholson, W.J., Selikoff, I.J. "Asbestos Exposure of Brake Repair Workers in The United States." Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine 43:207-218. 1976. ^
2. USA Environmental Protection Agency. Asbestos Action Program. Guidance for Preventing Asbestos Disease Among Auto Mechanics. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1987. Print. ^
3. Rohl, Arthur N., Arthur M. Langer, Mary S. Wolff, and Irving Weisman. "Asbestos Exposure during Brake Lining Maintenance and Repair." Environmental Research (1976): 117-17. Print. ^
4. USA Environmental Protection Agency. Asbestos Action Program. Guidance for Preventing Asbestos Disease Among Auto Mechanics. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1987. Print. ^