Worker safety is still at risk due to exposure to asbestos, according to a recent Iowa OSHA alert. Considered by many to be a thing of the past, asbestos still shows up in some workplaces from time to time. Asbestos does pose a danger to anyone in its vicinity.
Builders can no longer use asbestos and most of it used in construction prior to the ban has been removed. The recent alert warns of its lingering presence in the automotive industry, however. Older model cars and trucks may have asbestos in their brakes and clutches, where it poses a risk to mechanics working on these vehicles.
Asbestos is a mineral composed of tiny fibrous particles that can become airborne and inhaled. These tiny particles are much too small to see with the naked eye but they pose extreme risk once inhaled. Each year, 10,000 Americans die from lung and gastrointestinal cancers, asbestosis, and mesothelioma caused by the ingestion of asbestos.
One prime danger of asbestos in older vehicles is that there is no way to determine which ones might contain the substance. For this reason, Iowa OSHA suggests that all parts of the clutch and brake systems of older vehicles be handled as if they do, in fact, contain asbestos.
With very few safe ways to handle asbestos, the recent Iowa OSHA alert recommends working with the substance in a negative pressure enclosure / HEPA vacuum system or using a low pressure / wet cleaning method. The airborne nature of asbestos particles makes it a danger to the mechanic and to everyone in the shop, as well.
The Iowa worker safety alert specifically addresses occupational safety and health and holds no jurisdiction over people doing mechanical work on older model vehicles during private time but the risk affects them, too. The state safety watchdog agency strongly recommends seeking professional services for any needed repairs to the clutch or brake systems of all older vehicles.