Asbestos Usage in the Automotive Industry

While you may only here about the negative attributes of asbestos, such as an increased risk for mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other such diseases, it actually has a number of extremely useful characteristics that prompted its widespread use up until the 1980s. Many industries, including construction, utilized this substance before it was banned. The automotive industry, too, was not immune to the widespread appeal of asbestos.

Asbestos is a fiber that is a member of the silicate family. It has six different subtypes, which are divided into two main families. The first group, the serpentines, only consist of one subtype, chrysotile. Chrysotile was the most popular form of asbestos because of its sheetlike properties and the ability to form layers. The other group, amphiboles, are more chain-like. The amphibole family includes amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. Amosite is the second-most common form of asbestos after chrysotile, and crocidolite is considered the most dangerous.

Despite the dangers of asbestos, the car industry still used it because it can be highly useful. As a silicate mineral, asbestos embodies several characteristics of this mineral family that are helpful. It is highly resistant to a number of things, including heat, flame, electricity, chemicals, and degradation. Asbestos adds some of its own useful characteristics as well, including high tensile strength and flexibility.

Because of these handy properties, asbestos has been historically added to a number of different car parts, including:

Brake pads and shoes

Clutch plates

Clutch facings


Many of these parts experience large amounts of wear and tear. For example, every time you hit your brakes, they can release asbestos fibers into the air if the pads or shoes consist of the mineral. Because asbestos is only dangerous when it goes airborne and then settles into someone’s lungs, it is no wonder that automotive workers are particularly susceptible to asbestos diseases.

To help protect these workers and other people around them, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have teamed together to regulate asbestos. The EPA generally regulates asbestos that is released into the air, while OSHA specifically targets workers. It requires auto repair shops who perform more than five brake or clutch repairs or replacements per week must utilize at least one of the following safety measures:

Wet Wipe method

Low pressure/wet cleaning method

Negative-pressure enclosure/HEPA vacuum system method

Sadly, these regulations came too late for many auto workers, leading to health problems such as mesothelioma. If you or someone you know has developed this deadly disease due to illegal asbestos exposure, you should speak to a lawyer today regarding your rights. For more information, check out the mesothelioma lawyers at Williams Kherkher today.