April 4, 2011 – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises auto mechanics to take precautions and keep themselves informed of the asbestos exposure risks associated with their employment because many automotive mechanics are unaware of the prevalence of asbestos-containing products. A study by government-certified laboratories has revealed that the automobile workshops tested have unsafe levels of asbestos dust to which many workers are exposed. Specifically, two-thirds or more of randomly tested automotive garages had asbestos dust present in dangerous levels.
Malignant mesothelioma has been directly linked to asbestos exposure. Many cars and trucks continue to have asbestos-containing brakes and clutches due to its durability and fire-resistant qualities. Because of the constant wear on brakes and clutches, their embedded asbestos fibers are released into the air. An automotive worker who repairs or cleans a brake drum or clutch housing in a poorly ventilated place is at high risk to breathe in asbestos dust. Car enthusiasts who work on their cars at their own home are at the same risk for asbestos exposure. Many do not have the proper tools that can be found at automotive shops. Without taking the proper safety precautions, asbestos fibers can potentially enter the home, creating a further risk for family members.
Numerous studies have concluded that the incidence of lung cancer and mesothelioma is significantly higher in automotive workers than the general population. Because of the wide use of asbestos in the auto industry between the 1940s and 1980s, asbestos-related cancer deaths among auto workers are expected to rise until an estimated peak around 2012. However, this may change and the incidence of mesothelioma cases may continue to rise because asbestos-containing auto parts continue to be used today. In addition, despite the EPA’s warnings to the automotive industry as early as the 1970’s, safety precautions were not always put into place for the handling of asbestos, making automotive workshops a potentially dangerous environment for their employees.
Approximately 580 cancer deaths linked to asbestos exposure in the auto industry are reported each year. Auto mechanics are advised to inform their physician of their exposure risk and seek regular medical exams to check for signs of asbestos-related disease.