Asbestos in Brake Pads

Asbestos is well-known for its durability and resistance to heat. These properties made it a highly prized material in the automotive industry, where it was widely used in many brake parts. Asbestos brake pads were especially common, as they needed to stand up to high amounts of heat and friction.

Yet many of the companies who manufactured, sold and installed brake pads with asbestos knew asbestos exposure could cause serious diseases like mesothelioma. That’s why many individuals who worked with these products and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma may have a legal right to compensation.

History of Asbestos in Brake Pads

Asbestos brake pads were made and sold in the U.S. for decades, even after manufacturers knew of the health risks associated with asbestos exposure. The first use of asbestos in brake pads can be traced to the 1920s, when automobile manufacturers began using asbestos-based friction materials in braking systems. Asbestos provided superior performance and durability compared to other available materials, making it an attractive choice for brake pads.

Despite mounting evidence linking asbestos exposure to serious health conditions, including mesothelioma, the automotive industry continued to use the material until the 1990s.

Do brake pads have asbestos today? Generally, no. The U.S. automotive industry has transitioned away from asbestos brake pads due to regulatory pressures and growing health concerns. However, aftermarket brake pads from countries like India and China may still contain asbestos.

Common Uses

Asbestos brake pads were used in a wide range of vehicles across various industries. In addition to brake pads, asbestos was also used in gaskets, sealants, clutches, hood liners and heat shields. Here are some of the vehicles that commonly used components made with asbestos:

  • Cars: Asbestos brake pads were extensively used in passenger cars, including sedans, coupes, hatchbacks and convertibles.
  • Trucks and buses: Brake pads with asbestos were also widely used in trucks, including pickup trucks, delivery trucks and semi-trailer trucks, and all types of buses.
  • Planes and trains: Asbestos brake pads were used in passenger trains and airliners, cargo planes, freight trains and private jets.
  • Heavy machinery: Asbestos brake pads were also useful in various heavy machinery, including construction equipment, agricultural machinery and manufacturing machinery.

Known Manufacturers of Asbestos Brake Pads

Many manufacturers produced brake pads with asbestos. Some of the asbestos companies that could potentially be held liable for the health consequences of their products include:

  • Abex Corporation
  • ACDelco
  • Bendix Corporation
  • Borg-Warner
  • Ferodo
  • Raybestos
  • Wagne

Several auto manufacturers also used asbestos brake pads in their vehicles, including Chrysler, Ford and General Motors.

How Brake Pad Work Relates to Mesothelioma

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported an “unreasonable risk” to many workers due to commercial use of chrysotile asbestos, including those who work with automotive gaskets, brake blocks, aftermarket brakes and linings and other friction products.

The asbestos in these products contains microscopic fibers that can become airborne and be inhaled by workers. Once embedded in the lungs, the fibers can cause asbestos-related diseases such as:

  • Mesothelioma: This is a rare cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart.
  • Asbestosis: This chronic lung disease causes breathing difficulties, coughing and chest pain.
  • Lung cancer: Exposure to asbestos increases the risk of developing this type of cancer, especially among smokers.

Diseases like mesothelioma can take decades to develop, making it even more difficult to trace the root cause. Certain occupations are more at risk for exposure due to asbestos brake pads.

Occupations at Risk From Asbestos Brake Pads

Routine brake repair work poses a significant risk of asbestos exposure for mechanics. Activities such as grinding, sanding and removing asbestos brake pads and linings could release asbestos dust into the air, creating hazardous conditions. Some of the most at-risk occupations include:

  • Auto mechanics: Mechanics who worked on vehicles equipped with asbestos-containing brake pads and linings may have a significant risk of exposure.
  • Army mechanics: Military personnel involved in vehicle maintenance and repair, such as army mechanics, could have been exposed to asbestos in military vehicles, including tanks, trucks and aircraft.
  • Aircraft mechanics: Aircraft maintenance often involved handling asbestos-containing brake systems, insulation materials and gaskets.
  • Railroad workers: Railroad maintenance workers, including brake inspectors and repair technicians, may have been exposed to asbestos in locomotives and rolling stock components.

Is Asbestos Still Used in Brake Pads?

Brake pads with asbestos are no longer manufactured in the U.S. Currently, they may still be imported from other countries, but a recent EPA ruling aims to change that. The timeline of progress toward banning asbestos brake pads includes:

  • 2010: Washington and California passed legislation that requires brake pads sold and installed in these states to contain no more than 0.1 percent by weight of asbestos.
  • 2019: The EPA issued a final rule that banned “new uses” of asbestos products in the U.S. market, including brake pads and linings.
  • 2024: In March, the EPA announced an official ban on the import of asbestos-containing products that applies even to industries currently using it. It bans the use of chrysotile asbestos, the most common type of asbestos, in all gaskets, brake blocks, aftermarket brakes and linings and other vehicle friction products in the U.S.

The part of the rule that applies to the automotive industry will take effect in November 2024. However, older vehicles may still contain asbestos brake pads and other components and continue to pose a danger to those working with them. It will remain important for these individuals to follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines like wearing appropriate protective gear and using wet cleaning and removal methods.

Legal Options for Mesothelioma Victims

Many companies that manufactured asbestos products knew of the dangers but put profits over people. Those who were exposed due to these companies’ negligence have legal options available to them to seek compensation for medical costs, lost income and other damages, including:

  • Lawsuits: Mesothelioma lawsuits typically target manufacturers, distributors and suppliers who knowingly made or sold asbestos brake pads. A mesothelioma attorney can help you determine who is at fault for your asbestos exposure. Several companies may even share responsibility.
  • Asbestos trust funds: Many companies established asbestos trust funds as part of bankruptcy proceedings to compensate victims of their products. Victims can file claims with these trust funds and receive a set amount of money.
  • Veterans’ benefits: Military personnel who were exposed during their service may be eligible for veterans’ benefits, including free or discounted health care and prescriptions, disability compensation and survivor’s benefits.
  • Workers’ compensation: If you were exposed to brake pads with asbestos on the job, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits that can help cover your medical bills and lost wages.

An experienced attorney who specializes in mesothelioma is key to getting the compensation you deserve. They’ll know which of these options is best for your situation and can help you take action.

Speak With an Experienced Mesothelioma Lawyer

Mesothelioma attorney assistance is important to help you navigate the legal process following a diagnosis. Law firms like Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney and Meisenkothen (ELSM) have the knowledge, resources and experience to assess your case, determine who is responsible and pursue compensation, all in support of you and your family.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and you think it might be due to exposure to asbestos brake pads, get help today. Contact ELSM for a free case evaluation to discuss your options.

Request a Free Case Evaluation

Request a free case evaluation now if you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma. The evaluation will cost you nothing. Our lawyers will travel to visit you at your convenience or conference call with you over the phone. We understand how difficult a time this is for you and will assist in any way that we can. You can also call us toll-free at 1-800-336-0086 at any time.