Asbestos is a product that received vast amounts of bad press over the past couple of decades, not a week goes past in which I do not read a newly published article detailing another unfortunate casualty of asbestos. A product that has been around for centuries and used by the Romans, asbestos found its way into the industrial spotlight at the start of the 20th century when building contractors realised its potential as an insulator.
Asbestos has an extremely high resistance to heat and as such can perform well as a fire retardant. Asbestos is still today mined around the globe is what I can only describe as gargantuan open faced pits which can churn out hundreds of thousands of tonnes of the material anannum. Mining to this degree has made asbestos an extremely cost effective material and it is still widely used in the construction of low cost homes in developing nations such as India.
In countries such as the USA and United Kingdom asbestos has been hit with severe restrictions which regulate the use, control and import on the product to an extend where the European Union has implemented outright bans on the material. This is primarily owed to experts linking exposure to asbestos with numerous potentially fatal illnesses, including asbestosis and many other respiratory conditions. Asbestos is a recognised carcinogen and is primarily responsible for mesothelioma. Due to the regulations and illnesses caused, there are thousands of asbestosis compensation claims made every year.
Asbestos although regulated is still used within the United States in many areas of engineering and construction. It is still used with many other materials to create products such as roofing panels, insulating boards and pipe insulation however not many people are aware that asbestos is also present in many motor vehicles.
Brakes: Asbestos is still present in many brake pads, during everyday vehicle use these brake linings wear down over time which in turn releases asbestos fibres the same way that sanding wood produces dust. The majority of these fibres are trapped in the brake housing, however when this is opened the fibres often become airborne where anyone within the vicinity of the product can inhale, ingest the potential killer fibres.
Clutches: Similar to break pads in the sense that they break down over time, clutches are another component to contain asbestos to remedy the heat the heat generated whilst in use. As with brake pads the majority of the dangerous fibres are stored, however they are released when repair work is being undertaken leaving mechanics at risk of the deadly fibres.
Hood-liners: It is safe to say that over the past few decades millions of motor vehicles have been fitted with hood-liners that contain asbestos. Nowadays asbestos has been replaced in hood-liners with a safer material.
Gaskets: For decades gaskets, heat seal materials, valve rings and packing contained asbestos. These systems regularly worked transporting fluids or gasses around the car. It is also worth noting that many cars manufactured pre 1970 could have contained asbestos exhaust systems.
The EPA has deemed that asbestos in motor vehicles is not a threat to the general public and as such many American cars still contain asbestos although any work undertaken on a part containing asbestos must be completed by a company that has been deemed suitable. This will eliminate any causes for concern and potential health issues.
Adam Howard is an authority on asbestos safety at work. He writes for AtriumLegal.com with his aim being to hopefully prevent exposure to asbestos in the workplace.