We analyzed cumulative lifetime exposure to chrysotile asbestos experienced by brake mechanics in the US during the period 1950–2000. Using Monte Carlo methods, cumulative exposures were calculated using the distribution of 8-h time-weighted average exposure concentrations for brake mechanics and the distribution of job tenure data for automobile mechanics. The median estimated cumulative exposures for these mechanics, as predicted by three probabilistic models, ranged from 0.16 to 0.41 fibers per cubic centimeter (f/cm3) year for facilities with no dust-control procedures (1970s), and from 0.010 to 0.012 f/cm3 year for those employing engineering controls (1980s). Upper-bound (95%) estimates for the 1970s and 1980s were 1.96 to 2.79 and 0.07–0.10 f/cm3 year, respectively. These estimates for US brake mechanics are consistent with, but generally slightly lower than, those reported for European mechanics. The values are all substantially lower than the cumulative exposure of 4.5 f/cm3 year associated with occupational exposure to 0.1 f/cm3 of asbestos for 45 years that is currently permitted under the current occupational exposure limits in the US. Cumulative exposures were usually about 100- to 1,000-fold less than those of other occupational groups with asbestos exposure for similar time periods. The cumulative lifetime exposure estimates presented here, combined with the negative epidemiology data for brake mechanics, could be used to refine the risk assessments for chrysotile-exposed populations.
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The research supporting this analysis and the time needed to write the paper were funded almost entirely by DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors Corporation, which have been involved in litigation involving brake dust. These three funding sources (and their counsel) did not provide editorial comments or review the paper before submission to the journal. Some of the authors have served and may continue to serve as expert witnesses regarding the historical exposures of mechanics to asbestos during brake repair.
Results of exposure surveys conducted by automobile companies Table 1
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Finley, B., Richter, R., Mowat, F. et al. Cumulative asbestos exposure for US automobile mechanics involved in brake repair (circa 1950s–2000). J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 17, 644–655 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.jes.7500553
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