Automobile Mechanics and Asbestos Exposure

If you are a professional automotive technician or mechanic, or if you are a “weekend warrior” who changes your own bakes and clutches, you need to know about the risk of asbestos exposure from auto parts and how to limit asbestos exposure that can cause diseases such as mesothelioma.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber that has been used in some brakes and clutches because of its strength and heat resistance. Because of this, professional and home mechanics may be exposed to asbestos dust when working with these auto parts. Asbestos particles, which are too small to be seen, may be inhaled and continued exposure to asbestos can lead mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other diseases such as lung cancer.

It is now required that auto parts manufacturers indicate whether asbestos is present in their products, but this was not always the case. In truth, there is no way of knowing whether some auto parts contain asbestos or not. For this reason, it is recommended that mechanics always exercise dust control precautions.

In shops where brakes and clutches are changed regularly, OSHA regulations require the use of one of two dust control methods: negative-pressure enclosure or low pressure/wet cleaning. In shops that don’t change brakes or clutches very often, a wet wipe method is sufficient by OSHA standards. As a home mechanic, there are a number of precautions you can take to limit asbestos dust exposure:

  • Avoid using compressed air for cleaning parts
  • Do not use a hose to clean parts
  • Do not use a wet or dry rag to clean brake or clutch parts
  • If you are using a wet/dry vac, be sure a HEPA filter is in use to vacuum dust
  • Don’t take work clothing inside, where it may be tracked through the home and expose family members to asbestos.
  • Use low speeds when grinding parts to keep the dust amounts low
  • Keep food and drinks away from the work area

To get more information on how to limit asbestos exposure when working on cars, contact your local environmental or health officials.


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