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Keywords:

  • friction products;
  • brakes;
  • chrysotile;
  • forsterite;
  • epidemiology;
  • short asbestos fibers;
  • chrysotile

Abstract

Asbestos has been incorporated into friction products since the early 1900s. Epidemiological studies have been equivocal in their analysis of the incidence of disease among mechanics servicing brakes. Decomposition of asbestos occurs during the normal usage of the brake due to thermal decomposition into forsterite, although not all asbestos is so converted. Short fibers, below 5 μm in length, are also found in brake products. Several facts are discussed including the toxicity of the remaining asbestos fibers, short asbestos fibers, and the health implications of exposure to forsterite. Control methodologies, when used appropriately, have reduced exposure to asbestos during brake servicing, but have not been able to entirely eliminate exposure to asbestos, thus bring into question the controlled use of asbestos for friction product such as brakes. Even the so called “controlled” use of asbestos containing brakes poses a health risk to workers, users, and their families. Am. J. Ind. Med. 45:229–237, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.