The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, created two new government agencies designed to protect the workers of America; the National Institute for Occupational Safety (NIOSH) and Health and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, commonly known as NIOSH, is a branch of Public Health Service and is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States government. NIOSH was formed to conduct research in the field of disease and injury; and, based on its findings, make industry recommendations. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is a division of the Department of Labor, and was formed to regulate workplace standards and policies based on NIOSH recommendations. Together, the two agencies recognize and solve potential work-related health issues.

Without it being a regulatory function, NIOSH was given responsibility to go into the work place at the request of workers to assist them in solving occupational safety and health problems that they may encounter. NIOSH immediately began to conduct research studies focused on asbestos exposure. The conclusive evidence, asbestos causes cancer. NIOSH’s formal recommendations were made in 1972, when OSHA passed its first standard (recommended levels of asbestos exposure) at five fibers per cubic centimeter. This standard set a limit on permissible exposure, specifying safety practices and protections for employees handling these products. OSHA also required that all manufacturers and distributors of asbestos-containing materials apply warning labels to their products. On July 1, 1976, OSHA reduced the permissible exposure to two fibers per cc, based on NIOSH recommendations. In 1986, the standard was reduced again to 0.2 fibers per cc, and then in 1994, the standard was lowered to the current concentration of .1 fibers per cc.

United States Government Position on Asbestos-Containing Brake Linings

A study on asbestos exposure and brake linings was published in 1976 causing NIOSH to put out an alert regarding the potential for asbestos-related disease found in brake mechanics. At this time, NIOSH was also the first federal organization to call for a complete ban of asbestos in the workplace. However, that never occurred, and asbestos can still be found in the workplace.

On April 17, 1980, OSHA held a press conference to address growing concerns over asbestos and its potential to cause deadly diseases, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. This conference was centered on a committee of OSHA and NIOSH scientists to evaluate the occupational safety and health standard for asbestos, and to make recommendations to increase the protection of workers from asbestos exposure. At this press conference, it was formally stated that there is no safe level of exposure, and that all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile fibers found in brake linings, can and do cause cancer and lung disease. Today this belief is shared by organizations such as the International Agency for Cancer Research, American Cancer Society, World Trade Organization, World Health Organization and the Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information on NIOSH and its position on asbestos exposure in auto mechanics visit:

For more information on OSHA and its advisory regarding asbestos-automotive brake and clutch repair work for auto mechanics, visit:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted its own studies on asbestos exposure. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to list all hazardous air pollutants and publicize emissions limits. In 1971, asbestos was added to this list of hazardous air pollutants. By 1973, the emission standard was set, and throughout the 1970’s, into the 1980’s, the EPA continued to research and issue regulations regarding asbestos exposure. By 1986, asbestos was declared to pose an unreasonable health risk to humans and the EPA began placing prohibitions on the use and distribution of asbestos- containing products.

In 1986, the EPA published a manual detailing the prevention of asbestos- related diseases in auto mechanics. Commonly referred to as “The Gold Book”, this publication refers explicitly to the asbestos laden dust created in servicing brakes through grinding or beveling brake linings. It states that the ability for asbestos fibers to remain airborne for extended periods of time puts each person in the surrounding areas at risk for exposure. The manual also states that there is no safe limit for exposure to asbestos. An excerpt of this manual can be viewed by clicking here.

Currently, several national, scientific and health-related organizations agree that all forms of asbestos, including, actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, crocidolite and chrysotile can cause cancer and lung disease. Only 59 countries worldwide have altogether banned the use of asbestos-containing products.


Additional Information

These government agencies and non-governmental organizations warn of the health hazards associated with asbestos exposure: