Asbestos Risks to Automotive Mechanics and Brake Technicians
Before the mid-1980s, the carcinogenic fiber asbestos was incorporated into thousands of products to increase durability and fireproofing. Subsequently, hundreds of Americans were exposed to the toxic material in the home and workplace. Automotive professionals, brake and clutch technicians, and home garage mechanics are particularly at risk of hazardous asbestos exposure.
There is no safe level of exposure, leaving certain groups at increased risk of contracting asbestos-related diseases. Continuous exposure to the carcinogenic dust can cause respiratory side effects and several long-term health complications (such as lung cancer and mesothelioma). Moreover, about half of mesothelioma diagnoses are directly linked to the types of occupational exposure car mechanics and automobile technicians may regularly experience.
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Mechanics may have handled the following high-risk, asbestos-containing automotive products:
- Brake disks
- Clutch components
- Seam sealant
Long-term Health Complications
Unfortunately, you cannot know if there is asbestos in automotive parts just by looking at them. After a brake job, its fibers can become airborne (some may be too small to see) and inhaled by mechanics and customers alike in the garage. Dangerous fibers can also be carried home on mechanics’ clothing, hair, and skin to affect families, too.
The long-term health problems caused by asbestos exposure depend on where the asbestos particles end up in the body but can take up to 50 years to develop. If inhaled, they may become lodged in the lining of the chest cavity. Toxic dust particles can also travel to the lining of the abdomen, heart, and testicles. Asbestos-linked chronic health conditions include:
- Laryngeal cancer
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Pericardial mesothelioma
- Peritoneal mesothelioma
- Pleural mesothelioma
- Pleural plaques
The early symptoms of asbestos-related diseases include fatigue, fever, and excessive sweating. Shortness of breath, chest pain, and swelling are also signs of growing mesotheliomas. A doctor will physically examine the patient, ask questions about a possible history of exposure, and potentially order a biopsy of the affected area.
Compensation for Asbestos-related Diagnoses
For mechanics who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-linked disease, compensation is available to cover medical costs as well as reimburse related expenses. Workers’ compensation programs provide benefits through an employer’s insurance, but not all people diagnosed with mesothelioma qualify.
Asbestos trust funds have been established by companies responsible for toxic exposure to provide financial compensation to workers. Filing a claim with one of these funds is often the first step for many seeking assistance. Others may consider filing a personal injury lawsuit (or wrongful death lawsuit for family members of a lost loved one) to receive reimbursement.
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