Grinding machine operators use machines to grind down metal into the desired shape. Frequently part of that is shaping metal that may have asbestos coatings. Also, grinding machine operators sometimes rework brakes and other mechanical parts that have asbestos pads or linings. Even if the asbestos pad is removed a lot of asbestos dust remains, and grinding makes it worse.
In a 1986 report, the Environmental Protection Agency went so far as to say that regrinding an old brake block lining could release seven million asbestos fibers per cubic meter, and a light grinding of new linings could release almost five million asbestos fibers per cubic meter. Further, medical experts agree that people who work with friction products are at risk for developing asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos is lightweight, flexible, and strong. It is the only naturally-occurring mineral that can be woven into cloth. Asbestos is also completely resistant to fire, is chemically inert, and provides very good insulation against both electricity and heat. Asbestos fibers separate easily, and when they are disturbed, they slough off tiny fibers of asbestos dust. This dust is too small to be seen without a microscope, but clumps together so at times people will see dust coming off an asbestos product.
These clumps, which look like just specks of dust, actually contain thousands of asbestos fibers. When the asbestos dust separates from the main fiber it easily floats on the air. Any person in the area can then unknowingly breathe in the dust. When asbestos enters the human body it gets imbedded in the lungs or in the membrane that surrounds the lungs and lines the chest cavity, causing a number of different asbestos related illnesses such as asbestosis, pleural plaques, mesothelioma, lung cancer, and more.
Asbestos is also a carcinogen and has been associated with several different types of asbestos cancer, from lung cancer to gastrointestinal cancer. It also causes mesothelioma. Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer of the membrane that surrounds the lungs, heart, stomach, or other organs. Mesothelioma, like other asbestos-related diseases, has a lengthy latency period. Signs of the disease don’t usually show up for 20, 30 or more years after the asbestos exposure.