New Reports Show a Return of Asbestos Concerns for Mechanics

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More than a decade after most U.S. automakers stopped installing brakes containing asbestos, rising concerns have resurfaced in regards to brakes that are imported to the U.S. from countries where using asbestos in auto parts is still the norm.

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According to recent reports and a Baltimore Sun Newspaper Article, during the last 10 years, there’s been an 83% increase in the use of imported brakes in car repairs throughout the country, yet OSHA and other safety organizations have not seen fit to issue precautions throughout the industry, a fact that has angered many mechanics and auto shop workers who were unaware of the hazards they were facing on an almost daily basis.

Problems, say health officials, are compounded by the fact that many mechanics believe asbestos was banned in the United States more than 3 decades ago. That’s simply not the case. While warnings were issued in the 1970s and automakers stopped using the material about a dozen years ago, asbestos is still a legal product. As a matter of fact, the U.S. is one of the few industrialized countries that hasn’t banned the importation or use of asbestos which, when inhaled, can cause mesothelioma or other asbestos-related lung diseases.

A pamphlet touting the concerns of asbestos exposure in the auto industry was issued by the Environmental Protection Agency more than 20 years ago, but no warnings have been published in written form since that time. New mechanics, of course, are among those that are the least aware of the dangers of inhaling the material, which was used in brakes and other mechanical parts for several decades prior to their employment.

Occupational health specialists note that older mechanics were exposed to huge amounts of the material as brakes were once made of 50% asbestos. Thousands of workers in the industry are diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-caused diseases annually.

Even more aggravating to advocates in the auto repair field is the fact that OSHA completed a pamphlet about the hazards of asbestos in their field nearly two years ago but chose not to publish or distribute it.

Most critics believe that the government's refusal to publish the literature was due to pressure from the auto repair industry, which is already facing thousands of lawsuits over health-related claims resulting from the use of asbestos in brakes.

More information on these reports and the diseases associated with asbestos can be found at http://www.mesothelioma.com and the article that broke this report can be found on the Baltimore Sun web site.

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Steve Rinaldi
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