Is There Asbestos in My Car?

By Cristina M. in Health

Asbestos is a mineral that has greatly influenced the development of various industries. Due to its impressive properties, like mechanical and fire resistance, it has been intensively used for a wide range of applications, from small house appliances to construction materials.

One of the most common uses of asbestos was in the automotive industry. The mineral was considered a perfect material for manufacturing vehicle parts such as clutches, gaskets, and brake pads. By vehicle, we refer to most land, air, and water means of transport. As a general rule, asbestos can be found in any material or part of a product which requires protection from fire, heat, or friction.

Automotive parts that might contain asbestos

As far as land vehicles like cars, motorcycles, and trucks are concerned, asbestos can be found in a variety of components, some of which are listed below:

  • Clutches. The clutch is an automotive part where asbestos has frequently been used, since it prevents corrosion and minimizes wear.
  • Brakes. The functioning of brakes relies on heavy friction. Asbestos has been incorporated in brake pads, shoes, and rotors to protect these components against the heat generated by this force.
  • Gaskets. Asbestos was used to avoid unwanted heat transfer and increase the durability of the gaskets used in hoses and different engine components.
  • Car body parts. Thanks to its durability, asbestos has been included in plastic and fiberglass compounds used for the manufacturing of automobile body parts.
  • Hood liners. Asbestos was also used in hood liners in order to protect the underside of the car from the heat generated by the engine.
  • Insulation. Asbestos-containing materials have been used as insulation for the car body with the purpose of keeping the passengers cool or warm (depending on the weather).

Asbestos regulations

When the perilous effects of asbestos exposure on people's health were discovered, more than 40 countries - including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany - banned the dangerous mineral. However, the U.S. has never banned the use of asbestos entirely. While only new uses of asbestos and six asbestos-containing products are banned in the country, many asbestos applications, like automotive (mainly for clutches and brake pads) and fireproof clothing, are still legal.

Although it is not dangerous when found in good condition, asbestos can be life-threatening when disturbed. If it is friable, microscopic fibers are released from the mineral in the air and once inhaled, they can cause deadly cancers such as mesothelioma. Therefore, in order to prevent accidental exposure to asbestos, it is recommended to avoid performing car maintenance activities on your own. Instead, take your car to a qualified auto mechanic who is aware of the rules and regulations regarding asbestos and knows how to proceed so as to prevent hazardous exposure.

Why Should I Test Products in My Home for Asbestos?

It is often impossible to tell whether asbestos is embedded in a material, as the fibers are too small to be observed with the naked eye. Exposure to asbestos is responsible for serious respiratory conditions, so thorough testing is required to ensure your home is asbestos-free.