Because of its low cost, excellent friction and fire-resistant properties, asbestos was regularly used by clutch and brake manufacturers who supplied dangerous materials directly to major auto plants, aftermarket distributors and small repair shops. These products are known to release short chrysotile asbestos fibers during the installation, repair and replacement of brake systems, linking auto mechanics and asbestos exposure.
Many brakes are still made with asbestos–only in smaller amounts than in the past–and as the pads and linings break down from friction against the drums, asbestos fibers become airborne and can be inhaled by mechanics when they service the brake systems, particularly if they are unaware of the dangers inherent in asbestos. Common high risk duties for auto mechanics include “blowing out” of brake surfaces with high pressure air hoses and “grinding” brake shoes.
Despite repeated warnings in the 1970s by scientists, industrial hygienists, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other government officials about the dangers between auto mechanics and asbestos exposure, many auto part manufacturers continued to incorporate asbestos into their products – knowingly putting mechanics and other customers at risk. Some of the most common automotive products still containing asbestos today include: