Automotive Workers

Asbestos was frequently used in automotive parts that required regular repairs and maintenance by automotive workers. Hazardous asbestos fibers were released into the air and surrounding environment during regular maintenance. As a result, countless automotive workers were exposed to asbestos on the job.

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Automotive Workers and Asbestos Exposure

Historically, automotive workers had a moderate-to-high risk of asbestos exposure. Because automotive workers held a variety of jobs with different duties, some were in greater danger of inhaling or ingesting deadly asbestos fibers than others because they worked directly with asbestos-containing parts.

Few workers in the entire automotive industry were not at risk of some level of asbestos exposure.Studies show that asbestos fibers can spread in a 75-foot radius after a single disturbance.

For example, a brake technician using compressed air to blow out wheel hubs before starting repairs could release millions of asbestos fibers into the surrounding area. This put other nearby automotive workers at risk no matter what they were doing.

Even nearby office workers, visitors, or customers could also have been at risk of exposure.

How Automotive Workers Were Exposed to Asbestos

Before the 1980s, the use of asbestos in the automotive industry was unregulated. A wide spectrum of automotive workers suffered asbestos exposure while performing their daily duties.

Auto Plant Workers

Auto plant workers were not safe from asbestos exposure either. They handled thousands of parts containing hazardous asbestos during new vehicle assembly. Asbestos contaminants transferred down the line from station to station, exposing all factory workers equally.

Autobody Technicians

Autobody technicians were exposed to asbestos particles when using compressed air to clean brake, clutch, and engine residue from car and truck bodies. These fine particles filled the air around autobody workspaces where they could be inhaled unknowingly.

Brake Specialists

Brake specialists had the highest exposure to asbestos dust. For years, asbestos was the main material used in brake pads and shoes. It proved to be the most durable material known to withstand high heat caused by brake friction. It was also cheap, plentiful, and easy to repair.

Clutch Repair Mechanics

Clutch repair mechanics had a similar asbestos exposure risk to brake specialists. Clutch plates, also known as transmission plates, are friction devices that let engines gradually slip power through to the tires. Asbestos was used in most clutches because of its high resistance to heat and wear. But like brakes, clutch discs shed asbestos dust.

Engine Mechanics

Engine mechanics were exposed to asbestos material when replacing gaskets, seals, grommets, and control valves. Asbestos was considered the optimal material for use in car engines because it stood up to heat, oil, and coolant. Asbestos parts were destroyed when engines were disassembled and replaced with new asbestos products when put back together.

Service Station Workers

Anyone who opened an engine compartment was exposed to asbestos. Many underhood liners were formed from asbestos because the material was fireproof and great at reducing engine noise. This put every service station jockey at risk for asbestos exposure whenever they checked the oil.

Secondhand Exposure

Automotive employees and customers weren’t the only victims of asbestos exposure — their family members were, too.

Mechanics, body technicians, and assembly line workers carried asbestos fibers home on their clothing and even in their lunch boxes. This put family members at risk of secondary exposure. Secondary asbestos exposure is highly dangerous, especially when it occurs daily for years.

Asbestos Products Used in Automotive Work

Asbestos materials were used in automotive parts ever since cars were invented. Recently, material improvements, environmental regulations, and worker safety laws have restricted the use of asbestos products in automotive manufacturing.

While this reduced the risk to automotive workers, the restriction didn’t totally eliminate the risk of exposure. Many aftermarket products available from overseas markets still contain high asbestos concentrations.

Car parts that could contain asbestos include:

  • Engine gaskets
  • Brake shoe pads
  • Disc brake pads
  • Clutch plates
  • Engine sealants
  • Engine valves
  • Automotive soundproofing
  • Packing materials
  • Auto insulation

Automotive Worker Careers

The automotive industry employs everyone from auto plant workers who assemble products in clean, well-ventilated rooms to local repair shop mechanics who work in dust-covered environments.

Automotive workers are typically responsible for identifying automotive problems, performing regular maintenance, and replacing worn or broken parts. They may also be employed in specialty shops where they fix only brakes, mufflers, or transmissions.

Automotive Worker Health Risks

Every automotive worker who has been exposed to asbestos is at risk of developing a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma.

A worker’s health risk depends on the number of asbestos particles they were exposed to and the duration of their exposure. Still, exposure to any level of asbestos for any length of time puts people at risk.

The level of health risk to an automotive worker depends on their particular job duties as well as with their overall work environment.

There are two classifications of asbestos exposure:

  1. Acute: Sudden, short-term asbestos exposure
  2. Chronic: Lengthy, long-term asbestos exposure

Without question, the longer an automotive worker was exposed to asbestos, the higher their risk of developing related health problems. The health risk increases significantly for workers who were exposed to large volumes of asbestos particles over a long time.

Mesothelioma is a severe disease directly caused by asbestos exposure. Automotive workers can develop this cancer decades after they were last exposed to asbestos.

Help for Mesothelioma Victims

If you were one of the tens of thousands of automotive workers exposed to asbestos on the job, and you have since developed mesothelioma, you might be eligible for compensation.

Compensation payments might include disability assistance, lost income, medical expenses, or personal injury awards. Your loved ones may also qualify for compensation. Mesothelioma legal cases, such as wrongful death lawsuits, can also award punitive awards to victims and their families.

Our Justice Support Team can tell you more about seeking justice for asbestos exposure. Discover the ways we can help today.

Author:Stephanie Kidd

Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Justice Network

Stephanie Kidd

Stephanie Kidd works tirelessly as a dedicated advocate for the vulnerable and underrepresented. Stephanie worked as a copywriter for an agency whose focus was communicating safety procedures on construction work sites. With her extensive background in victim advocacy and a dedication to seeing justice done, Stephanie works hard to ensure that all online content is reliable, truthful and helpful.

Last modified: August 28, 2019

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