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Occupational disease: Asbestos exposure threaten auto mechanics

Asbestos can cause severe illness, and many workers in Colorado and other states suffer life-threatening consequences after exposure. Some authorities believe previous studies minimized the risk of asbestos to "brake workers" in the automotive industry. Mesothelioma is an occupational disease that can be caused by asbestos exposure. When workers inhale asbestos fibers, it can cause pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma -- cancers of the lung and abdominal linings. Other potential health problems include asbestosis and lung cancer.

Asbestos is durable and has a high resistance to heat, which makes it ideal for use in clutches and brake drums. To clean a set of brake drums, mechanics have to remove the worn brakes. In doing so, they inhale asbestos dust particles originating from deteriorated pads. The beveling and grinding of new clutch gaskets or brakes in confined spaces expose mechanics to concentrated asbestos dust -- often without wearing personal protective gear.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration along with the Environmental Protection Agency evaluated the risk to workers in the automotive industry. They recommended that all auto mechanics nationwide wear respirators with negative pressure and use vacuums with HEPA filters when they work with brakes. It is said that results in previous studies were manipulated to hide the dangers of asbestos in the automotive industry.

Many auto mechanics in Colorado may be unaware that their deteriorating health resulted from exposure to asbestos in their places of work. Any worker who has to cope with an illness such as mesothelioma may find it difficult to prove that it is an occupational disease. However, an experienced workers' compensation attorney can assist with the navigation of a claim for benefits to cover medical expenses and lost income.

Source: survivingmesothelioma.com, "Reevaluating Mesothelioma Risk Among Brake Mechanics", Alex Strauss, Jan. 18, 2017

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