Personal Exposures to Asbestos Fibers During Brake Maintenance of Passenger Vehicles

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Personal Exposures to Asbestos Fibers During Brake Maintenance of Passenger Vehicles

  • Received April 5, 2011.
  • Revision received February 22, 2012.
  • Accepted March 6, 2012.


Introduction: Brake linings and brake pads are among the asbestos-containing products that are readily available in Colombia. When sold separated from their support, brake linings require extensive manipulation involving several steps that include drilling, countersinking, riveting, bonding, cutting, beveling, and grinding. Without this manipulation, brake linings cannot be installed in a vehicle. The manipulation process may release asbestos fibers, which may expose brake mechanics to the fibers.

Methods: Three brake repair shops located in Bogotá (Colombia) were sampled for 3 or 4 consecutive days using US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) methods 7400 and 7402. Standard procedures for quality control were followed during the sampling process, and asbestos samples were analyzed by an American Industrial Hygiene Association accredited laboratory. Personal samples were collected to assess full-shift and short-term exposures. Area samples were also collected close to the brake-lining manipulation equipment and within office facilities. Activities were documented during the sampling process.

Results: Using Phase Contrast Microscopy Equivalent counts to estimate air asbestos concentrations, all personal samples [i.e. 8-h time-weighted averages (TWAs) and 30-min personal samples] were in compliance with the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. Personal asbestos concentrations based on transmission electron microscopy counts were extremely high, ranging from 0.006 to 3.493 f cm?3 for 8-h TWA and from 0.015 to 8.835 f cm?3 for 30-min samples. All asbestos fibers detected were chrysotile. Cleaning facilities and grinding linings resulted in the highest asbestos exposures based on transmission electron microscopy counts. There were also some samples that did not comply with the NIOSH’s recommended exposure limits.

Conclusion: The results indicate that the brake mechanics sampled are exposed to extremely high asbestos concentrations (i.e. based on transmission electron microscopy counts), suggesting that this occupational group could be at excess risk of asbestos-related diseases.

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