As all motor vehicle owners know, the linings of brake pads and brake shoes on passenger automobiles wear out and require periodic replacement. From 1950 until the 1990s, most passenger car and truck brake linings contained high concentrations of chrysotile asbestos, a carcinogenic fiber which is potentially deadly when inhaled. The presence of asbestos in brake lining materials has placed mechanics and their assistants at a high risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos Exposure and the Brake Shoe Replacement Process

Asbestos-containing brake shoes have two primary components, the brake shoe, a curved metal structure, and the brake lining, a pad of brown fuzzy material either bonded or riveted to the surface of the shoe. Prior to the 1990s, asbestos-containing brake linings could be purchased at most automotive stores, including Western Auto and NAPA Autoparts. Individuals who performed brake replacement work, during this time period, were likely exposed to airborne asbestos dust released during the replacement process.

In order to replace a worn brake shoe, a mechanic must remove both the automobile’s tire and the brake drum. If the brake drum has rusted, its removal from the wheel shaft requires the use of tools, such as a hammer and a puller. After the brake drum is successfully removed, a mechanic usually detaches the worn brake shoe from within the drum and, subsequently, uses an air hose to remove dust and debris from these parts. The use of a hammer and an air hose in the brake replacement process has been known to release asbestos dust into the breathing area of not only the mechanic performing replacement brake work, but also his assistants and any other individuals within the vicinity of the mechanic’s work space.

After the brake drum is cleaned, and if the worn brake lining is riveted to its metal shoe, the mechanic may use a punch and a hammer to remove the rivets from the old lining. If the replacement brake lining has not been manufactured with pre-made holes for brake rivets, the mechanic must drill holes into the new lining in order to properly affix the new brake lining to its shoe. Both of these processes are known to release microscopic asbestos dust into the mechanic’s work area.

To complete the brake replacement process, the surface of a replacement brake lining must be sanded by using a bench grinder before it will properly fit back into its brake drum. Experts consider sanding and bench grinding of asbestos-containing brake linings to be the most significant source of asbestos exposure during the brake replacement process. Asbestos dust created from sanding and grinding brake parts has been known to linger in the air of a work space for up to three to four days after the completion of replacement brake work.

Asbestos Exposure and Brake Pad Replacement

During the late 1970s, automobile manufacturers began to replace brake drums mechanisms with disc brakes. Unlike a brake shoe and drum, disc brakes operate through the use of two brake pads, which function by clamping down upon a brake rotor. While the structure of brake pads is different from that of brake shoes, the replacement process is quite similar for both types of braking systems. Resembling the replacement of a brake shoe, when replacing a brake pad, mechanics used an air house to clean dust and debris from the brake rotor. Brake pads also required the surface to be ground or sanded down in order to properly fit over the disc brake’s rotor.

The attorneys at Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC, have gathered a vast amount of information concerning asbestos-containing brake materials. Our clients understand the importance of securing legal representation as soon as possible after a diagnosis of mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you or a loved one has a past history of replacing brake shoes or brake pads and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.


Additional Information

Personal Exposures to Asbestos Fibers During Brake Maintenance of Passenger Vehicles - Ann Occup Hyg (2012)

48-Year-Old Former Brake Mechanic Receives $5.6 Million Dollar Settlement

48 Year Old Automotive & Truck Mechanic Receives $3.5 Million Award

Former Automobile Brake Mechanic Receives $1.5 Million Dollar Settlement