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Mechanics & Asbestos

Mechanics are at an elevated risk of cancer and other diseases due to their workplace exposure to asbestos.

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    What is Asbestos?

    Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral that has been widely used in industrial settings for over a century. Asbestos is an excellent insulator, it is durable, and it is cheap to produce. These characteristics make asbestos well suited for use in brakes, clutches, gaskets, and insulation. As a result, mechanics working on vehicles such as automobiles and locomotives have historically endured dangerous exposures to asbestos.

    How Dangerous is Asbestos?

    Asbestos is extremely dangerous. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies asbestos as a group one carcinogen. [1] Examples of other group one carcinogens include benzene, plutonium, and tobacco. In addition to being a known carcinogen, chronic asbestos exposure can lead to the development of irreversible and potentially fatal lung diseases, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.

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    What Cancers are Caused by Asbestos?

    Asbestos is known to cause:

    Asbestos has also been linked to various other cancers including:

    How do Dangerous Asbestos Exposures Occur?

    Most dangerous asbestos exposures occur when breathing in airborne asbestos dust. Once asbestos dust becomes airborne, it can float in the air for days. Airborne asbestos dust is easily inhaled and may become trapped in your lungs indefinitely. Airborne exposures to asbestos can be particularly severe when working in unventilated environments without respirators or other protective equipment.

    How are Mechanics Exposed to Asbestos?

    Mechanics are exposed to asbestos while working on machinery that contains parts manufactured with asbestos. As asbestos-containing parts wear, they break down. By the time an asbestos-containing part needs to be replaced, the surrounding areas are typically coated in asbestos dust. Mechanics disturb the dust while accessing these areas. As a result, asbestos fibers become airborne in mechanics’ workspace. The use of shop vacs and air compressors for routine cleaning often greatly exacerbates these types of exposures.

    Are Mechanics Still Exposed to Asbestos Today?

    Yes, even today, mechanics can endure frequent and dangerous exposures to asbestos. As recently as 2018, a study published in Epidemiology: Open Access estimated that 730,000 workers in the U.S. are at risk of asbestos exposure from brake repairs alone. [2]

    Which Vehicle Mechanics are at Greatest Risk of Exposure?

    U.S. manufacturers largely ceased using asbestos in their new vehicles by the early 1990s. As such, mechanics who work on vehicles predating that period are at the greatest risk of exposure. However, mechanics can also be exposed to asbestos while working on modern vehicles.

    Do New Vehicles Contain Asbestos?

    Yes, even modern vehicles can contain parts produced with asbestos. While U.S. manufacturers have ceased using asbestos in vehicle components, many foreign manufacturers have not. This is problematic because a very large portion of the aftermarket vehicle parts available in the U.S. are manufactured in foreign countries such as China (the world’s largest consumer of asbestos).

    In 2020, the EPA concluded that the asbestos present in foreign aftermarket parts presents an unreasonable risk to mechanics. [3] As a result, in April of 2022, the EPA proposed a rule that will ban the import and sale of all foreign aftermarket parks that contain asbestos. [4] However, there is no guarantee that this proposed rule will become law. Moreover, as it stands, it will be at least two years before it takes effect.

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    What Should I do if I was Exposed to Asbestos?

    If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos and received a cancer or lung disease diagnosis, the attorneys at Hughes Law Offices may be able to help. These are complicated cases that require attorneys with experience dealing in these matters. Focus on your recovery and let us do the work needed to prove your case. Call 312-877-5588 today and speak directly with an attorney at no cost to you.

    Mechanic Asbestos Exposure Verdict & Settlements

    $8,261,874 verdict (Louisiana, 2021)

    The Plaintiff worked as a gas station mechanic in the 1960s and 1970s. A regular part of his job was making brake repairs on vehicles fitted with asbestos-containing brakes. In May of 2020, the Plaintiff was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer that is caused by asbestos exposure. By the time of trial, only one Defendant had not settled. The Jury found that the remaining defendant was liable for 1/8 of the Plaintiff’s damages and the net verdict was reduced to $1,032,734 accordingly. (Aaron v. Ford Motor Company)

    $5,000,000 verdict (Virginia, 2019)

    The Decedent worked at Norfolk Southern’s car repair shop at Lampert’s Point Yard between 1979 and 1990 changing out asbestos-containing brake shoes. He was also exposed to other asbestos products such as pipe insulation. Many years later, the Decedent developed asbestosis and passed away shortly thereafter. The judgment was reduced by 80% to $1,000,000 to account for the Plaintiff’s long history of smoking. (Fowlkes v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.)

    $10,938,500 verdict (California, 2019)

    The Decedent was exposed to the Defendant’s asbestos-containing brakes while working as a mechanic. He was subsequently diagnosed with mesothelioma and passed away shortly thereafter. His estate brought suit, alleging that the decedent’s wrongful death was the result of the Defendant’s negligent selling and manufacturing of asbestos-containing brakes. The Judge reduced the verdict to $5,876,540. (Phillips v. Honeywell International Inc.)

    $5,240,000 verdict (Texas, 2014)

    The Plaintiff worked for the Great Northern Railway (a predecessor to BNSF) as an apprentice carman in Waite Park, Minnesota for a little over two years. During his employment, he was exposed to asbestos fibers from various products. He later developed mesothelioma due to his asbestos exposure. The Jury awarded $3,240,000 for physical pain and an additional $2,000,000 for mental anguish. (Blommer v. BNSF)

    Hughes Law Offices is providing asbestos case histories to inform visitors about actual case fact patterns and rulings. Unless specifically noted, the cases summarized herein were not handled by attorneys at Hughes Law Offices. To learn more about these types of cases visit our Asbestos Verdicts & Settlements page.

    What can I do if I was Exposed to Asbestos?

    If you or a loved one was exposed to Asbestos and have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, the attorneys at Hughes Law Offices may be able to help. These are complicated cases that require attorneys with experience dealing in these matters. While you and your loved ones focus on recovery, let us do the work needed to prove your case. Contact Hughes Law Offices today at 312-877-5588 for a free attorney consultation.


    [1] https://monographs.iarc.who.int/list-of-classifications

    [2] Kanarek MS, Anderson HA (2018) Mesothelioma from Asbestos Exposure in Brake Mechanics: Epidemiology in Context. Epidemiology (Sunnyvale) 8: 340. doi:10.4172/2161-1165.1000340

    [3] https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/documents/1_risk_evaluation_for_ asbestos_part _1_chrysotile_asbestos.pdf

    [4] https://www.regulations.gov/document/EPA-HQ-OPPT-2021-0057-0006

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