Those in the automotive industry kept vehicles running safely for millions of people. However, they may have also been exposed to asbestos on a daily basis. Until the 1980s, asbestos was a key component of many car parts because it was a good insulator. What most mechanics did not know was that asbestos could cause serious diseases like mesothelioma.
Automobiles & Asbestos Materials
Automobiles have been mass produced since the early 20th century. As is the case with all new innovations or technologies, they came with the need for skilled workers to maintain and repair them.
As consumer demand for cars soared during World War II, demand for skilled workers to service them grew, too. In just a few decades, cars went from a novel idea to an essential part of human life. The automotive repair industry bloomed in the process.
Many car parts were made with asbestos before the 1980s. In this context, this mineral was deemed by many in the industry as “helpful.” Its heat-resistant properties could reduce friction, particularly in brake, clutch, and engine systems.
Many automotive workers came into contact with asbestos-made products on a weekly or daily basis. Asbestos was one of the many dirty, dusty materials that could stick to workers’ clothes.
Unfortunately, asbestos became linked to serious illnesses decades after it was widely being used by dozens of industries. Many retired or veteran auto mechanics are now being diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.
Auto mechanics are still at risk of asbestos exposure today if they service older vehicles with asbestos-containing parts.
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Asbestos Exposure through Car Parts
Throughout a majority of the 20th century, asbestos was commonly used in products that automotive mechanics handled regularly. When mechanics would work on vehicles with asbestos-based parts, microscopic — and toxic — fibers could become airborne.
Notable car parts that were made with asbestos included:
- Brake pads, drums, and linings: Workers must drill, sand, or grind down existing parts so that they can easily crumble. New brake linings may also need to be filed down so they can withstand sudden stops. Unfortunately, these changes create asbestos-laced dust that workers can breathe in.
- Clutch and transmission plates: Since clutch plates control energy from the engine to the wheels, they are frequently exposed to friction and heat. Clutch components gradually wear out over time, releasing small amounts of toxic dust if they were made with asbestos. The replacement of clutch components allows these fibers to enter the air.
- Engine gaskets and other parts: Asbestos was used in engine parts to keep them resistant to heat, coolant fluid, and oil. When asbestos-based engine parts were widely used, old parts would be destroyed and replaced during major engine repairs. Asbestos fibers could be released as these parts got removed, broken, or worn out.
- Hood Liners: Many hood liners were made with asbestos because of the mineral’s fireproofing and soundproofing properties. However, this also meant that people could be exposed anytime they looked under the hood.
Some vehicle parts are still made with asbestos today. A big example of this is the aftermarket car parts sold in foreign countries. These products should be thoroughly examined before you by them. Vintage or older vehicles should also be checked for asbestos parts ahead of a purchase.
Auto mechanics were not the only ones at risk of asbestos exposure on the job. Many other auto-related jobs could expose workers to asbestos-containing products.
Auto repair occupations that used asbestos include:
- Auto body technician
- Bag opener
- Bale roller
- Brake mechanic
- Carder of asbestos yarn
- Clutch assembler and mechanic
- Design engineer
- Engine mechanic
- Forklift operator
- Foundry worker
- Hopper loader
- Maintenance mechanic
- Plant worker
- Production engineer
- Production worker
- Brake and clutch repairman
- Saw operator
- Service station workers
- Spinner of asbestos cloths
- Stock preparation worker
- Tow motor driver
In addition to these jobs, the families of workers could suffer from secondhand exposure. If asbestos fibers are disturbed, they can get stuck to the clothes and skin of workers. Workers can then bring the fibers home with them and unknowingly put their family members in danger.
Help for Auto Mechanics Exposed to Asbestos
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are nearly 750,000 automotive mechanics employed in the U.S. as of 2016. Some of these mechanics have been working in the industry for decades. They spent thousands of hours mastering their craft and carving out an honest living from hard work.
Little did these workers know, however, that they were being exposed to a lethal carcinogen on a daily basis. To make matters worse, asbestos companies knew that their products could be deadly, but hid the facts from the public for decades to make a profit.
The sad truth is that anyone who worked with asbestos-containing products may be at risk for asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancer. Because there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, even a small amount of exposure can prove deadly over time.
For auto mechanics and their families, a cancer diagnosis can be devastating. To make matters worse, asbestos-caused cancers like mesothelioma have no cure and are often diagnosed after they have spread throughout the body.
Sokolove Law is here for you and your loved ones. Exposure to asbestos through an occupation like automotive maintenance and repair is a serious matter. Fortunately, Sokolove Law has extensive experience in handling these types of cases.
For over 40 years, we have successfully fought to get victims and families the justice they deserve. We can take cases from every state and will make the legal process easy. While you focus on your health, we focus on your legal rights.
Contact us today for a free legal case review. We may be able to help you get compensation from asbestos companies. Compensation can help pay for your medical expenses and protect your family’s future.