Asbestos in Clutches Exposure and Risks

Summary

Asbestos has long been a popular material in the automotive industry because of its superb resistance to heat and friction. The tightly-packed microscopic fibers offer great protection to clutch components, and many car manufacturers still use the substance today. However, when these parts begin to wear down, carcinogenic asbestos-containing dust can be released and lead to rare diseases such as mesothelioma.

Asbestos in Clutches Explained

Asbestos in clutches provided the right amount of friction and high resistance to heat. The material is fundamentally safe when its fibers are bound together, but it becomes a danger as the fibers become old and friable. Asbestos fibers are so small that once they become airborne, they are easily inhaled. This can lead to an aggressive form of cancer called mesothelioma.

Many well-known manufacturers used asbestos in their clutch linings, though most ceased using the material by 1980. These manufacturers included:

  •      Borg-warner
  •      Federo Asbestos
  •      Ford Motor
  •      General Motors
  •      Johns Manville
  •      Raymark

Modern clutches are usually made from fiberglass instead, but unfortunately, it’s not always obvious when a clutch component contains asbestos.

MJN Brief

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advise that mechanics should assume that all clutches contain asbestos to ensure that they take the necessary safety precautions.

To safely clean a clutch, mechanics must use a vacuum that fits tightly around the clutch and cleans the parts safely. A low-pressure spray is another alternative to this and includes a specific basin in which the contaminated liquid can be collected.

Free Mesothelioma Justice Guide

Exposure to asbestos has led to thousands of mesothelioma diagnoses. If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, the Mesothelioma Justice Guide will help you understand your rights and know the next steps.

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Who Was Exposed to Asbestos Clutches?

Mechanics who service and repair clutches were at a higher risk of coming into contact with asbestos than other mechanics. New clutches are now required to be labeled if they contain more than 1% asbestos, but older parts are unlikely to carry such a health warning.

Automotive assembly plant workers producing asbestos-containing clutches could have been affected too. They were responsible for carrying bags of asbestos through the factory to build clutch parts. While they may not have come into direct contact with raw asbestos, they still could have been exposed.

MJN Brief

n addition to mechanics and factory workers, car-users who took clutches apart themselves may have also been at risk of coming into contact with asbestos and spreading the fibers into their home.

Asbestos fibers can cling to clothing, shoes and hair, posing a risk to friends and family members of undergoing secondhand asbestos exposure.

Health Risks of Asbestos in Clutches

Asbestos is made of heat-resistant particles that can cause serious health problems when inhaled or ingested. The thin, friable fibers can attach to the lining of the lungs, the heart or the abdomen. Over time, asbestos fibers irritate healthy tissue, triggering genetic mutations in healthy cells.

When healthy cells undergo genetic mutations from asbestos fibers, they can turn into mesothelioma cells, which spread aggressively into nearby organs.

A study conducted in 2008 found that mechanics were only exposed to a slight amount of asbestos through clutch fitting and repairs. It reported that the amount of asbestos found in clutches, coupled with the frequency at which a mechanic would perform maintenance, would have resulted in exposure of 0.0016 fibers/cc (flcc).

The OSHA permissible exposure limit is currently 0.1flcc, meaning that clutch maintenance work is within the ‘safe’ range for asbestos exposure.

Access Asbestos Trust Funds

Compensation for treatment, loss of income and other damages is available through Asbestos Trust Funds. Workers with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses may qualify.

Find Out If You Qualify

Seeking Justice for Asbestos Exposure

Many people developed mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos in clutches. Today, safety measures exist to prevent health dangers of working with asbestos in clutches. However, previously exposed workers may still be at risk of developing mesothelioma, which takes up to 50 years to develop.

If you worked as a mechanic and were exposed to asbestos in clutches and you’ve since been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be eligible for legal compensation. Contact the Justice Support team today by calling us at (888) 360-4215, or register to receive our FREE Mesothelioma Justice Guide to understand your next steps as a mesothelioma victim.

View Author and Sources
Sources
  1. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, "Asbestos exposures of mechanics performing clutch service on motor vehicles". Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18188736. Accessed on May 29, 2018.
  2. EPA, "Current Best Practices For Preventing Asbestos Exposure Among Brake and Clutch Repair Workers". Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/brakebrochure-paginated.pdf.Accessed on May 29, 2018.
  3. OSHA, "Asbestos-Automotive Brake and Clutch Repair Work". Retrieved from: https://www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib072606.html. Accessed on May 29, 2018.

Last modified: June 25, 2018