Two independent events last week shored up the fact that asbestos-containing
brakes pose a health hazard to workers. For years, asbestos makers and
distributors have falsely claimed in court that the asbestos fibers contained
in the brakes pose no danger to mechanics or other workers exposed to
the airborne fibers. Asbestos has been proven to cause mesothelioma when
inhaled. If products containing asbestos such as brakes are machined,
ground down, or otherwise worked, the asbestos fibers can be released
into the air. Over time this can result in mesothelioma.
The EPA has released a new pamphlet educating mechanics about how to minimize
their asbestos exposure from automobile components such as brakes and
clutches, plainly contradicting the courtroom assertions of asbestos defendants
that the fibers are harmless. "Current Best Practices for Preventing
Asbestos Exposure among Brake and Clutch Repair Workers" provides
health and safety information for professional and do-it-yourself mechanics
and emphasizes the need to prevent asbestos fibers from escaping into
the air during repair work.
The brochure advises that mechanics should assume the possible presence
of asbestos, as it could be impossible to tell if clutch and brake components
contain asbestos. It also emphasizes the warning against blowing dust
from brakes and clutches with compressed air and details three recognized
methods for containing asbestos dust in a professional automotive shop.
The booklet provides guidelines for home mechanics which include using
pre-ground, ready-to-install parts and not taking work clothing inside
the house to prevent exposing family members to asbestos dust.
The information on best practices for preventing asbestos exposure for
mechanics is online athttp://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/brakesbrochure.html.
More damaging to the auto industry's false claims about benign asbestos
exposures from car brakes, however, was a recent New York County Supreme
Court ruling that training manuals from Ford Co. and other defendants
could be used at trial as admissions that asbestos-containing brakes are
hazardous and can cause cancer. This ruling, in CARLOS CEPEDA v. AC&S,
INC., et al., references training manuals that specifically contradict
Ford's courtroom posture that asbestos-containing brakes are safe.
Before the ruling, Ford tried to keep its training manuals away from the
jury because the warnings spoke specifically about the dangers of exposure
to asbestoses containing brakes and asbestos-containing brake parts. Ford
rightly feared that the jury would see through its courtroom shenanigans
and hold that if the brakes were dangerous out of court, they were dangerous
in court as well.
Ford sought to exclude the incriminating evidence by claiming that that
the warnings were involuntarily included to meet the requirements of the
Occupation Safety and Health Administration. Ford then went on to contradict
its own assertion as the judge pointed out that Ford disseminated its
training materials to the public at large, whereas the OSHA requirements
were only applicable to the employer-employee setting. The judge also
noted that Ford claim of an involuntary warning was contradicted by the
fact that Ford's warning actually exceeded the OSHA requirements,
strong proof that the warnings weren't inserted simply out of duress,
but because the brakes were in fact dangerous.
In the manuals, whenever Ford addresses asbestos in brakes, it warns of
the asbestos hazards to health and often warns that asbestos from brakes
can cause diseases including cancer.