Kelsey-Hayes Company employees exposed to asbestos
Before 1975, asbestos would be present in the automobile industry in unimaginable amounts, as it has plenty of desirable properties, such as resistance to extreme temperatures, durability, and inability to conduct electricity. Numerous vehicle components, such as brakes and clutches, would need good insulation, and back in the day, asbestos was the go-to material, as it was inexpensive to purchase and widely available. Employees who spend plenty of time working on automotive parts containing asbestos are at high risk of toxic exposure. If the facility they work in is poorly ventilated, they end up inhaling and ingesting even more asbestos fibers from the air.
When vehicle components that were made with asbestos were serviced, removed, or installed, the spindly asbestos fibers would get disturbed, leading to asbestos exposure. Some of the specific automotive trades with a high risk of asbestos exposure during the last century were the following:
- collision repair specialists
- diesel service technicians
- master mechanics
- small engine mechanics
In the past, drum and disc brakes were manufactured with up to 60% asbestos. Nowadays, it remains legal in the U.S. to sell vehicle components that have asbestos, and plenty of brakes and clutches still contain roughly 35% asbestos. During the last century, automotive components with asbestos would be used on every type of vehicle, such as cars, trucks, motorcycles, buses, trains, and military vehicles. These are the occupational groups that Kelsey-Hayes Company exposed to asbestos, either directly or indirectly:
Alarmingly, a study published in Epidemiology: Open Access in 2018 estimates that 730,000 workers in our country are at considerable risk of asbestos exposure from brake repairs alone. Therefore, auto mechanics have to take all the necessary precautions when working on vehicles, particularly if the components are old, such as wearing a high-quality respirator and coveralls.