I just read an interesting news story from CBC news. Most of us from the US don’t give a lot of thought to asbestos dust when changing our brake pads. If you are working on a newer car in the States, the likelihood of coming across brake pads containing asbestos (a class-A carcinogen known to cause a form of lung cancer and Mesothelioma a cancer of the stomach and chest, which is only caused by exposure to asbestos) is probably pretty slim. An article from CBC News (Asbestos brake pad ban proposed) in Canada discusses of how even though manufacturing asbestos brake pads are illegal in Canada, importing them and using them is not. So, if asbestos pads are readily available in Canada what about the Dominican Republic?
This article pointed out that usually the imported asbestos brake pads are not labeled as such. With that in mind even if you want to avoid the material, you may not know the pads had it. In addition you don’t know what the person used the last time the pads were changed. The real problem is not in handling the pads to install them, it is the dust that is caused when the pad starts to wear down, and much of this dust remains in the hub.
Asbestos health issues
The risk with asbestos pads is caused when the pad breaks down from use and the asbestos contained in the pad is released as a dust. This dust when breathed gets into the lungs and with prolonged exposure can cause lung cancer like Mesothelioma. If you are a do-it-yourselfer who works on his own vehicles or a mechanic are several precautions that you can take to protect yourself in case this hazardous material is sold in brake pads in the Dominican Republic.
- Wear a mask – It is normally hot and humid in the DR and no one wants to wear a mask but that is better than exposing yourself to asbestos
- Spray down the dust – Have a spray bottle set to mist nearby and spray down the dust. Then use a damp rag to wipe down all the surfaces containing dust. This rag then needs to be properly disposed. Once dry it will then be able to release the dust again.
- Thoroughly wash you work clothes – It is best to use overalls that completely cover your skin, these should be thoroughly washed each day.
- No Fans – Don’t have a fan blowing over your work space, this will cause the dust to be airborne greatly increasing the risk of breathing the fibers.
Many of the health and safety laws that are in place in the US are either not in place in the Dominican Republic or are not actively enforced. Asbestos is a real risk if you are working on a cars brakes and prolonged exposure is known to be a cause for lung cancer and Mesothelioma. Take the extra time and precautions necessary to protect yourself from risk.