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Asbestos & Industrial PressIndustrial press machines are massive, powerful machines used to forge and shape metal parts from steel, aluminum, magnesium and other metal alloys. Similar to car and truck brakes, linings on brake drums used in industrial press machines wear out and require periodic replacement.

The linings, or friction material, require replacement every three to twelve weeks, depending on the press and how the machine is used. From the early 1900s through the 1990s, brake linings contained chrysotile asbestos, a carcinogenic fiber that may cause lung cancer or mesothelioma years after initial exposure. 

The use of asbestos in brake linings was an industry standard. This was the case whether the industrial press was manufactured by Ajax Manufacturing, CNC or any other manufacturer. The presence of asbestos in brake lining materials has placed machinists, mechanics, press machine repairmen, journeyman, factory laborers and their assistants at a high risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos Exposure and the Industrial Press Brake Shoe Replacement Process

Asbestos-containing brake shoes have two primary components, the brake shoe (a curved metal structure) and the brake lining or friction material, (a pad of brown fuzzy material that is either
 bonded or riveted to the surface of the shoe). Prior to the 1990s, asbestos-containing industrial press brake friction materials could be purchased through any brake lining suppliers, including Abex and Bendix. Industrial brake components were often disassembled, cleaned out, reconditioned and recycled. Individuals who performed replacement brake work were likely exposed to airborne asbestos dust released into the work area.

In order to replace a worn brake shoe, the machinist must remove the enormous brake drum (ranging from 6 to 32 inches in diameter) from the industrial press.  If the brake drum is rusted, its removal from the wheel shaft requires a hammer and a puller to pry it free. After the brake drum is successfully removed, the machinist detaches the worn brake shoe from within the drum and uses an air hose to remove dust and debris. Not only workers who were directly involved in this process are at risk for developing an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma, but those who also worked in the vicinity are also at risk.

After the brake drum is cleaned, and if the brake lining is riveted to its metal shoe, the machinist may use a punch and a hammer to remove the rivets from the old lining. If the replacement brake lining does not have pre-made holes for brake rivets, the machinist must drill holes into the new lining to properly affix it to the shoe. Both processes release asbestos dust into the mechanic's work area.

To complete the brake replacement process, the machinist must sand or bench grind the surface of a replacement brake lining before fitting it to its brake drum. Medical experts consider sanding and bench grinding asbestos-containing brake linings to be the most significant source of asbestos exposure during the brake replacement process. Asbestos dust created from sanding and grinding brake parts has been known to linger in the air of a work space for up to three to four days after the completion of replacement brake work.

The attorneys at Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC have gathered a vast amount of information concerning asbestos-containing brake materials. 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 has a past history of working with or around brake shoes, brake linings and pads, and has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.