Incredible though it may seem in 2010, there is still the very real possibility of being exposed to asbestos contained in brake linings, clutches and gaskets of older vehicles manufactured before the 1970s. More worryingly, automobiles are imported from countries where individual parts have been produced in factories still using asbestos as a cheap source material.

It is difficult to put an estimate on the countless numbers of mechanics who have been exposed to asbestos found in individual components since 1940, which have led to asbestos-related cancer deaths, such as mesothelioma, each year, and then decided to make a mesothelioma claim. Surveys also suggest that over the next 10 years, the expected fatality rate for asbestosis, as a result of exposure to brake lining dust fibres, will actually rise, acknowledging that for every mesothelioma case diagnosed there may be dozens of cases of asbestosis leading to an asbestosis claim increase. Deaths caused by exposure to asbestos brake products had been expected to peak around the year 2012, however, as asbestos is still found in some brakes being sold today, it could mean the deaths would continue to climb.

In addition to a significant number of cars and trucks still found to have asbestos-containing brakes and clutches, which were routinely used in older vehicles, and despite of increased asbestos awareness, imports of asbestos brakes and clutches in production today, albeit, manufactured in smaller quantities, have increased 83 per cent over the past decade.

Obviously, the very nature of brake and clutch functions causes continual abrasion, releasing dust filled with microscopic asbestos fibres. Also, large amount of asbestos material is trapped inside the brake housing or clutch space, which is then released when replacement or repair work is carried out.

Asbestos fibres can be further spread into the surrounding air, lingering long after a job is done and can spread 75 feet from the work area, potentially exposing other mechanics and others who enter the workshop. Airborne asbestos fibres are easily inhaled and can even be ingested from contact with hands and clothes. This is a particularly difficult problem for mechanics, since asbestos fibres can stick to grease on their hands. Asbestos can even be carried home on workers’ clothing, leading to ‘secondary’ exposure and the very real possibility of developing asbestosis symptoms.

Home auto mechanics and vintage car enthusiasts who repair or replace their own brakes or clutches are also in danger of exposure to asbestos and asbestos related disease. Many auto enthusiasts are not in possession of tools used by most professional garages and workshops shops to make the jobs quicker and easier. This can lead to actions that further disturb asbestos, e.g. repetitive strikes with a hammer to release the part to be replaced.

Key danger areas where asbestos may be still found in a vehicle are : Hood Linings, Brakes, Clutches, Gaskets. Heat Seals, Valve Rings and Packing.