Exposure to asbestos can cause a rare form of cancer known as mesothelioma. Exposure is most common among people in occupations that required them to work daily with asbestos. One of the groups at risk worked in automotive repair. Since asbestos was considered one of the best insulators, it was used in brake and clutch linings for decades because it could cut down on the heat caused by friction.
Normal wear and tear and an automobile includes the wearing down of the brake linings due to friction. This allows asbestos dust to be released. Much of this asbestos dust stays inside the brake housing so that when it is opened, the dust is sent into the air where the mechanic can easily swallow or inhale it. Cleaning brake housings with compressed air or a vacuum can also release these deadly fibers. The dust can also get on the hands of the automotive worker or cling to clothing and hair where it can be carried into their homes to expose their families.
Exposure to asbestos is responsible for several serious illnesses such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. Asbestos is still sometimes used in the making of brakes. But those who work on older model cars should be particularly aware of asbestos exposure.