Asbestos Dust and Brake Drums

If you are a mechanic then you possibly know that drum brakes made with asbestos are the oldest type. They are also the dirtiest and most mechanics will hate them for this feature in addition to being hard to work on. The asbestos dust from these brake drums is not good news and breathing it is not good for your health. Contrary to what many mechanics think (that asbestos is no longer used in vehicle brakes), there are manufacturers who are still using it when making brake shoes and other friction materials.

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The effects of asbestos dust on a mechanics life

Asbestos dust originates from the processing and cleaning operations in auto body repair shops. Asbestos is the known major cause of Mesothelioma which is a deadly cancer. Studies have shown that asbestos exposure, including in small dosage can cause mesothelioma and other severe side effects. When a person inhales asbestos dust or swallows it, the asbestos fibers travel faster through their lungs and then lodges in the pleura (a membrane which lines the lungs).

It is extremely hard to diagnose mesothelioma and its symptoms may not show until 30-50 years after the person was exposed to the dust. Furthermore, the many symptoms which people report are usually related to some other medical issues and therefore medical practitioners may dismiss them as something lesser serious. However, after for a very long time in an auto repair shop, a mechanic should consider the possibility of having mesothelioma.

• Shortness of breath

One major symptom of mesothelioma is shortness of breath. This may indicate a tumor in their lungs or fluid build up in the lung’s pleural lining. The two are a result of mesothelioma that results from asbestos dust.

• Swelling of the neck, hands and the face

Another sign of mesothelioma is swelling of arms or face. A mechanic who witnesses this symptom should visit a doctor as soon as possible. Swelling of the neck, arms and the face shows that the mesothelioma cancer is spreading beyond the mesothelium and has reached other body parts.

• Back and chest pain

Chest and back pain is a symptom that can go undetected for several years since mechanics are manual laborers and they often ignore any physical pain or even take it for granted – stating that it is just a part of their job. But however, fluid buildup in lung’s pleural lining may create a fullness sensation and also put pressure on the chest cavity’s localized areas and on the lower back at times. You should take any pain on the right hand side of your chest or the lower back as a mesothelioma red flag. Mesothelioma tends to focus on the right side and hardly infects both sides.

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Asbestos dust effects prevention

When working on auto brakes, you should have all the basic tools and the safety gear. The safety gear should consist of safety glasses which you should wear when working with automotive fluids and tools. You should always use a hydraulic jack and the safety stands when getting under or lifting a vehicle. Brake dust may contain asbestos fibers which cause mesothelioma cancer.

And even though the US auto makers state that they do not use asbestos to make clutch or brake linings, this isn’t true for the aftermarket suppliers of the replacement shoes, brake pads and the clutch linings. The friction parts which include brake shoes and pads aren’t labeled as such since there is no regulation in the United States which require the manufacturers to do so. Since there is no way of knowing that a vehicle has asbestos in its brake lining or not, you should treat each and every vehicle as if it contains it. In fact, there are concerns in the country that some other fibers used in the brake lining poses long term health risks just like asbestos.

The basic rules on vehicle brake’s repair states that you should use cold water to clean brake fluid up. You should keep all the dirt, water, oil and fluids out of the brake system apart from the clean brake fluid. Moreover, you should keep off any shoes, pads, and the drum brake surfaces. If the brake shoes get contaminated with oil or grease, you should throw them away and purchase new ones. If the brake drums become oily, you should clean them with hot soapy water or with brake clean. If you have never worked on a car there before, you shouldn’t make the brakes work one of your first tasks. And if you are worried more about your health in the auto repair shop, you should get a high dose vitamin C.