Asbestos has been a component in linings, clutch facings, and brakes pads for a long time and millions of them on the shelf of an auto parts store or operating in vehicles can still be found today. That said they are not normally used in the production of new components. Read on to learn more.
As clutches and brakes wear down through regular usage, dust containing asbestos is released into the outside environment as well as getting trapped within the vehicle housing to be released when those areas are being worked on. Asbestos dust is also spread further by using a vacuum cleaner to sweep up the break residue and in a similar way to use compressed air.
Therefore, it should be obvious that mechanics are at high risk for asbestos exposure. Cleaning drum brakes can release asbestos fibers by the million around the face of a mechanic, even striking a brake drum with an object like a hammer can cause the release of asbestos fibers. It can get on their hands and be swallowed as well. Asbestos lingers once it is in the air and can be inhaled by customers as well as mechanics. Not to mention the dust will remain on their clothes, endangering other people they may meet.
Government regulations state any shop that does in excess of five brake jobs per year must use special equipment so asbestos exposure is minimized. These include a see-through enclosure surrounding the brake system and a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Another method is low-pressure sprays used to wet down the brake assembly and the water runoff when collected. Asbestos must also be collected and sealed as well as labeled in containers that cannot be opened.
The Home Mechanic
As home auto mechanics are still a very popular pastime those who work with clutches and brakes containing asbestos are also at risk and the problem may even be more intense as they do not often have the safety equipment found in auto shops.
The SPA states at home mechanics should refrain from using compressed air to clean brakes to prevent the release of asbestos and should also use parts that are preground to avoid asbestos exposure.
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