I am often asked why are you so many brake mechanics coming down with mesothelioma? The answer is because there was asbestos in brakes well into the 1990s and exposure continued to occur during the repair of older cars for at least another decade. The following article written by Roger Worthington his instructive and upsetting.
Beginning before 1930, GM also sold drum brake linings as replacement parts that were
manufactured by other entities including Marshall Eclipse (1949 to 1963), AMCO (1951-65),
Abex (1954-1979), Bendix (1946-1980), Raybestos-Manhattan (1946-1980), Thermoid Division
of H.K. Porter (1974-1980), Ferodo (1950s), Mulitbestos (1950s), and Universal Friction (1956-
For its heavy duty trucks and buses, GM bought complete brake assemblies which included an
asbestos lining from Rockwell Brake Division, Eaton Brake Division, Wagner Electric (1974-
82), B.F. Goodrich (1974-82); Bendix, Dayton-Walther, Unibond, American Coleman, Dana
Axle, Kelsey-Hayes. Replacement drum brake shoes and linings for medium and heavy duty
trucks were supplied by Abex (1937-88); B.F. Goodrich (1979-84); Bendix (1951 to at least
1987); and Rockwell International (1954-85) and disc brake pads for heavy-duty trucks were
bought from Johns-Manville (1965-69); Raybestos (1967); Bendix (1971-90) and Abex (1970-
GM did not manufacture the clutch plate facings that were components of its cars. Instead,
manual clutch plate facings were bought from Raymark (1965-1985); H.K. Porter (1965-1971)
and clutch assemblies, including asbestos facings, were bought from Borg Warner (1930-1985).
CHRYSLER CORPORATION (now DiamlerChrysler) was incorporated in Delaware in 1925.
From 1959 to 1988, Chrysler manufactured drum brake linings in its Trenton Chemical Plant in
Trenton, Michigan. The drum brake linings contained 50% chrysotile asbestos by weight and
were sold under the trade names of “Cycleweld,” “Cyclebond,” and “Mopar.” Chrysler brake
linings, brake shoes and brake support plates have had the pendent star logo stamped on them.
In addition to manufacturing drum brake linings, Chrysler purchased disc brake linings and other
asbestos friction products from Abex Corp. (1958-1961, 1965-1969, 1979); Johns-Manville
(1958-1962; 1965-1968); Bendix (1960-1981); Raybestos-Manhattan (1974); Marshall, Delco-
Moraine (a division of GM), Kelsey Hayes and Ferodo. These brake parts were sold by Chrysler
under the trade names of “Cycleweld,” “Cyclebond,” and “Mopar.”
Chrysler has never manufactured asbestos-containing clutches but rather bought the products
from Luk, Fichtel & Sachs, Borg & Beck division of Borg Warner, Long Co., Lip-Rollway and
the Spicer Division of Dana Corporation. The replacement parts that Chrysler obtained from
these suppliers were marketed under the “Mopar” trade name.
Chrysler is also the successor-in-interest to the American Motors Corporation. AMC sold
asbestos containing friction products manufactured by Bendix Corporation, Kelsey-Hayes, Borg
& Beck (a division of Borg Warner), Dana Corporation, Valeo, Wagner Electric, and Abex.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY was incorporated in Delaware in 1919. Ford never manufactured
asbestos containing brake linings or clutch facings. Ford purchased all of its asbestos friction
products from outside suppliers. Ford believes that the brake linings contained between 40 and
60% chrysotile asbestos, by weight.
Ford sold the brake linings, pad and clutch facings under the trade names of “Ford,” “Mercury”
and “Motorcraft.” The aftermarket parts were sold under the name of “Ford” or “Ford Authorized
ABEX CORPORATION began in 1902, as The American Brake Shoe and Foundry Company.
In 1916, the American Brake Shoe and Foundry Company became a Delaware Corporation. In
1926, the American Brake Shoe and Foundry Company formed a subsidiary named the
American Brake Materials Corporation, which, in 1933, changed its name to the American
Brakeblok Corporation. Four years later, American Brakeblock Corporation was merged in the
American Brake Shoe and Foundry Company to be operated as the American Brakeblok
Division of that company. In 1943, The American Brake Shoe and Foundry Company changed
its name to the American Brake Shoe Company. Finally, in 1966, The American Brake Shoe
Company changed its name to Abex Corporation.
Abex manufactured and sold asbestos-containing friction products from 1926 to 1987 under
various trade names, including: American Brake Materials (1930 to 1971); Brakeblok (1936 to
1971); American Brakeblok (1938 to 1987); Abex (1941 to 1987); Brake Shoe (1943 to 1987);
Esline (1965 to 1987); Stopper (1966 to 1987); American Eagle (1974 to 1980); Crossing Guard
(1975 to 1987); Protector (1975 to 1987) and 121 Super Brakes (1975 to 1987). All automotive
friction products manufactured by Abex contained approximately 25 to 65% chrysotile asbestos.
THE BENDIX CORPORATION was incorporated in Delaware in 1929. In 1985, it merged
into Allied Corporation. In 1987, Allied Corporation was merged into AlliedSignal Inc., which
was subsequently purchased by Honeywell. Bendix manufactured asbestos drum brake linings,
disc brake pads, brake blocks and, for a short period of time, clutch facings in its plants in Green
Island (Troy) New York and Cleveland, Tennessee.
The drum brake linings averaged approximately 50% chrysotile asbestos by weight. The drum
brake linings were distributed under the following trade names: Bendix (1939 – present);
Marshall (1939 – present); Bulls-eye (1939-1948); SL (1939-1971); WM (1939-1971); Eclipse
(1939-1987); Master (1945-1987); EDF (1946-1987); FK (1955-1987); Friction King (1960-87).
The disc brake linings averaged approximately 50% chrysotile asbestos by weight and were
distributed under the trade name “Bendix” from 1963 until the present. The brake blocks were on
average 35% asbestos by weight and were sold under the Bendix trade name from 1948 until
1988. Clutch facings were sold only to the Chicago plant of Borg & Beck between 1975 and
1978 and contained 44% chrysotile asbestos by weight.
Bendix sold asbestos friction products to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler under the trade
name “Bendix.” It has also distributed asbestos friction products to every state of the United
States of America.
BORG WARNER CORPORATION was created in 1928 when four companies, Borg & Beck
Co., Marvel Carburetor Co., Warner Gear Co., and Mechanics Universal Joint Co. merged. A
year later, Borg Warner acquired Long Manufacturing Co. The only asbestos friction product
that Borg Warner manufactured was a disc brake pad manufactured in its Spring-Brummer
facility in Bellwood, Illinois. Although Borg Warner maintains that they manufactured this
product only from 1971 to 1975 for Ford, Mercury, Torino and Montego police cars, Ford
interrogatory responses state that they purchased disc brake pads for their police cars from Borg
Warner from 1969 until 1975. Another controversy surrounds the type of asbestos material in the
disc brake pad. In some interrogatories, Borg Warner has stated that both crocidolite (blue)
asbestos and chrysotile asbestos were used. In other interrogatories, Borg Warner has stated only
chrysotile was used. In all instances, Borg Warner states that the pads contained 7 to 28%
asbestos depending on the particular type of disc brake pad.
In addition to manufacturing disc brake pads, Borg Warner was one of the nation’s oldest and
largest distributor of clutch assemblies. Borg Warner began distributed clutch assemblies
containing asbestos pads in 1928. The pads that were incorporated in their assemblies were
contained asbestos and were purchased from Raybestos-Manhattan, Abex, Gatke, Johns-
Manville, National Friction Products, Russe, Standco, H.K. Porter, Akebono, Amco Works, and
Borg Warner’s asbestos products were sold primarily to Original Equipment Manufacturers like
Chrysler, Ford and General Motors. Some of the products were distributed through national
Other important manufacturers and distributors of asbestos friction products include Firestone
(World Bestos company Division), Auto Friction Corp., Carlisle Corp., Reddaway
Manufacturing Company, Inc. and Scandura, Inc.
4. NATURE OF EXPOSURES TO FRICTION MATERIALS
The exposures that automobile mechanics endure during the course of repair and/or replacement
of components containing asbestos friction products is succinctly outlined in the following
passages from the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Guidance for Preventing
Asbestos Disease Among Auto Mechanics (June 1986)(citations omitted):
Millions of asbestos fibers can be released during brake and clutch servicing. Grinding and
beveling friction products can cause even higher exposures. . .
Asbestos released into the air lingers around a garage long after a brake job is done and can be
breathed in by everyone inside the garage, including customers. While lowering exposure lowers
risk, there is no known level of exposure to asbestos below which health effects do not occur . . .
Asbestos can be carried on work clothing, contaminating the family car and home. This can
cause asbestos disease among family members. . .
Using a compressed air hose to clean drum brakes can release up to 16 million asbestos fibers in
the cubic meter of air around a mechanic’s face. Even hitting a brake drum with a hammer can
release over a million asbestos fibers. Much less dust from asbestos-lined disc brake pads will
settled on disc brakes, but some dust can get on a mechanic’s hands and into the garage air during
maintenance. The asbestos fibers released from brake and clutch work can be scattered
throughout a garage, where they can present a hazard for months or years. . .
When grinding is done to renew used brake block linings, concentrations of up to seven million
asbestos fibers per cubic meter can be released. Beveling new linings can release concentrations
of up to 72 million fibers and light grinding of new linings of up 4.8 million fibers . . .
Significant exposure can also occur during clutch repair. Since a mechanic’s head is typically
under the clutch assembly during clutch repair, asbestos often falls on a mechanic’s face and
clothing. . .
General Motor’s expert, Ralph A. Froehlich, agrees that repairing and replacing asbestos brakes,
regardless of the type or manufacturer of the brake, creates a significant hazard to mechanics
throughout the entire repair and replacement processes. Deposition Testimony of General Motors
Expert Ralph A. Froehlich, in Terry v. General Motors, Court of Common Pleas, Montgomery
County, Ohio, Cause No. 98-893, at 47-48, 54-55 (May 8, 2000); Affidavit of General Motors
Expert Ralph A. Froehlich, in Terry v. General Motors, Court of Common Pleas, Montgomery
County, Ohio, Cause No. 98-893, at 3 (January 24, 2000). A Certified Industrial Hygienist, Mr.
Froehlich agrees that, in the 1960s, brake mechanics were exposed to excessive levels of
asbestos during ordinary garage brake maintenance work. Froehlich Deposition, supra, at 51.
Mr. Froehlich then characterized asbestos exposure from brake work as “both significant and
injurious.” Froehlich Affid., supra, at 4. He also agreed that asbestos brake work represented a
significant hazard to brake mechanics throughout the 1960′s and 1970′s. Froehlich Deposition,
supra, at 54.
From the review of depositions of garage mechanics, it is clear that such workers are exposed to
asbestos dust throughout the process of repair and replacing brakes and clutches, including when,
in preparation for changing the products, the brake and clutch housings are cleaned and blown
out with compressed air; when the new friction products are removed from their boxes; when the
surfaces of these new friction products are disturbed by sanding, filing, beveling, drilling, or
grinding; and when the asbestos debris from these processes is swept up or blown off during the
clean up process.
Blow out is age-old process whereby mechanics use compressed air to blow out the wheel hub to
clean off the brake assembly prior to removing the brakes for repair or replacement. During the
course of vehicle operation, these linings wear down. Some of the “wear debris” becomes
airborne and enters the ambient environment, the rests gets deposited on the surfaces of the brake
shoe or calipers and around the wheel cylinders or collects on the lining surfaces, in the rivet
holes and on the brake drum. While the drum and disc brake linings contain anywhere from 25 to
75% asbestos when installed, the wear debris does not contain the same percentage of asbestos.
Thermal studies have shown that when chrysotile asbestos is heated to 650 degrees centigrade, it
loses water (dehydroxlation) and recrystallizes as a different mineral called “fosterite.” See Rohl,
et al., Asbestos Exposure during Brake Lining Maintenance and Repair, Env’l Research, 12:110-
128 (1976). At times during the braking operation, certain spots on the brake lining can attain a
temperature ranging from 800 to 1000 degrees. Accordingly, significant portion of the wear
debris is fosterite, this transformed chrysotile. Not all of the chrysotile, however, converts to
First, it is important to note that friction product manufacturers were aware of this conversion
and added numerous reconditioning agents as modifiers in the manufacturing process to retard
fosterite formation because fosterite was a harder material than chrysotile and its hardness tended
to score and gouge brake drums and discs, degrading them prematurely. Rohl, et al., Asbestos
Exposure during Brake Lining Maintenance and Repair, Env’l Research, 12 at p. 112.
Second, other factors besides thermal wear contribute to the disintegration of the brake linings,
namely abrasive wear and macroshear. These forces can cause fibers to be freed from the brake
lining at temperatures lower than those required for fosterite transformation, liberating partially
altered or even unaltered chrysotile fibers.
One of the first papers to attempt to quantify the level of asbestos remaining in wear debris was
Jeremiah Lynch’s Brake Lining Decomposition Products, Journal of the Air Pollution Control
association, 18(12): 824-826 (1968). Lynch tested 15 samples of debris, 10 from automobile
drum brakes, 1 from an automobile clutch, 1 automobile disc brake, 2 bus drum brakes and 1
truck drum brake. Eleven out of the fifteen had some remaining unconverted chrysotile fibers. Of
these, the percentages by weight of material were as follows: 8 were below 1%, 1 was below 5%,
1 at approximately 10% and 1 at approximately 15%.
Defendants rely heavily on Jacko, DuCharme, and Somers, Brake and Clutch Emissions
Generated During Vehicle Operation, Automobile Engineering Meeting (1973) and its
conclusion that 99.7% of the brake wear debris is composed of asbestos material that was
chemically converted to forsterite and that only .23% was unconverted asbestos material. To put
these figures in the proper perspective, however, Dr. Roy Gealer, the head of Ford’s Chemical
Engineering Department analyzed dust collected from a brake lining wear test that simulated
“stop-and-go” conditions from normal driving. He discovered 12 asbestos fibers on a filter paper
area of 40,000 square microns that corresponds to 30 million asbestos fibers per gram of wear
debris material. See Ford, Intra Company Memorandum, Subject: Asbestos Emissions from
Brake Lining Wear, November 16, 1970.
Other researchers have found significant levels of asbestos dust in the air after the use of
compressed air. For example, Dr. Rohl examined 10 samples of brake drum dust in New York
City and 29 samples sent by colleagues from other countries. Unaltered chrysotile was found in
all of the New York samples with a mean weight of 4.5% and a range of 2 to 15.1%. When he
used a more power transmission electron microscopic, Rohl found both free chrysotile fiber
bundles and fibrils in all 39 samples. A.N. Rohl, A.M. Langer, R. Klimentids, M.S. Wolff, I.J.
Selikoff, I.J., Asbestos Content of Dust Encountered in Brake Maintenance and Repair, 70 Proc.
Roy. Soc. Med. 32-36 (1977)
In determining how much of this asbestos was in the air during blowout, Hickish and Knight,
Industrial Hygiene Specialists for Ford in Great Britain, reported a time weighted average of 1.25
fiber/cc for blowing out car brakes and of 1.75 fiber/cc for blowing out truck brakes. Hickish &
Knight, Exposure to Asbestos during Brake Maintenance, Ann. Occup. Hyg. , 13:17-19 (1970).
See also G.L. Lee, Removing Dust From Brake Assemblies During Vehicle Servicing-Alternative
Cleaning Methods, Ann. Occup. Hyg., 13:33-36. (1970) (Blow out of brake drums yielded peak
concentration of 3-5 fibers/cc); K.L. Knight, D.E. Hickish, Investigations Into Alternative Forms
of Control For Dust Generated During the Cleaning of Brake Assemblies and Drums, Ann.
Occup. Hyg.13: 37-39 (1970)(Blow-off personal sample yielded 5.35 f/cm3 and peek sample 87
f/cc); Hatch, Possible Alternatives to Asbestos as a Friction Material, Ann. Occup. Hyg. 13:25-
29 (1970)(Brake cleaning by compressed air jet showed 10 minute average for fiber counts from
2 to 5 microns (5 f/cc), 10 minute average for fibers above 5 microns (.8 f/cc), peak
concentration 43 f/cc).
Dr. Rohl also reported on the average concentrations from blowing the dust out of brake drums
with compressed air jets, finding a mean fiber concentration of 16 fiber/cc and measurable
concentrations of asbestos fiber fifteen minutes after the brake blow out up to 75 feet away. Rohl,
et al., Asbestos Exposure During Brake Lining Maintenance and Repair, Env’l Research, 12:110-
Kauppinen and Korhonen found concentrations ranging from less than 1 to 8.2 fibers/cc during
brake dust blow out studies in cars, while two independent laboratories they consulted found
concentrations of 11.0 to 16.5 fiber/cc and 1.6 to 12.2 fibers/cc respectively. Kauppinen & K.
Korhonen, Exposure to Asbestos During Brake Maintenance, Brake Maintenance of Automotive
Vehicles by Different Methods, 48 Am. Ind. Hyg. Assoc. J. 499-504 (1987).
When the International Program on Chemical Safety reviewed this subject in 1998, it concluded
that “[a] considerable number of reports have included airborne asbestos concentrations during
maintenance and replacement of vehicle brakes & resulting in high total dust exposures.” IPCS,
Environmental Health Criteria 203, Chrysotile Asbestos (Geneva, 1998). The IPCS specifically
cited the use of compressed air to blow off brake dust as one of the activities that caused brake
mechanics asbestos exposure. Id. An overview of the air concentrations collected during the use
of compressed air to blow-out brakes referenced in the IPCS Report show measurements that
significantly exceeded the current permissible exposure level.
In addition to the published literature, corporate documents shed additional light on the issue of
asbestos exposures during “blow out”. In an unpublished paper in 1968, Dr. Hickish, who was
with Ford’s Medical Services Division in Great Britain, examined asbestos brake “blow out”
exposures. He reported that the “generation of a dust cloud by blowing off dust from commercial
vehicle brakes results in increased background contamination of 3 to 4 times the background
level at any point within a radius of 20-25ft.” D.E. Hickish, Report 52/68, Exposure to Asbestos
Dust During Brake Maintenance Operations on Commercial Vehicles, Fleet Repair Garage,
Dagenham (October 1968). He further noted that, not only was the asbestos exposure of the
mechanic engaged in “the blowing off task” nearly 4 times the Threshold Limit Value, but also
the asbestos measured in the breathing zone of a different mechanic in an adjacent work bay,
during the blow off period, exceeded the Threshold Limit Value. Id. at 3.
In December 1975, GM conducted asbestos monitoring during brake repair at a Buick dealership
in New York City. Although the mechanics took care not to use compressed air to clean brake
assemblies, levels as high as 4.5 f/cc were measured, or 45 times the current limit. Letter from
W.H. Krebs, GM Industrial Hygiene Department, to W. McCrocklin, Manager, Circle K Buick
(September 28, 1976).
In the early 1970′s, the Ford Industrial Hygiene Section began monitoring asbestos dust levels
internally, at test tracks and other locations, during brake repair operations. In a May 29, 1973
letter from Ford Industrial Hygienist Harry Lick to Ford’s J.A. Keller, Mr. Lick discusses air
samples taken during blow off of truck brake drums and assemblies, and states the results of the
air sample “indicated an over exposure to the 10 fibers greater than five microns in length per
millimeter of air ceiling concentration limit prescribed by OSHA.” Letter from Harry Lick, Ford
Industrial Hygienist, to J.A. Keller, Ford Personnel Services Supervisor (May 29, 1973).
In August 1973, Mr. Toth, the Supervisor of Ford’s Industrial Hygiene Section, circulated a
memorandum reporting that “[r]ecent industrial hygiene studies have demonstrated overexposure
to asbestos fiber in air during certain vehicle brake rebuilding and inspection operations.
Overexposure occurred when brakes and brake drums were cleaned using compressed air
blowoff.” Paul E. Toth, Supervisor of Ford’s Industrial Hygiene Section, Memorandum Re:
Vehicle Brake Rebuilding (August 3, 1973).
Shortly thereafter, Ford internally banned the use of compressed air to clean brakes and brake
linings during servicing of any automobile, truck, trailer, and any other unit having asbestos
brake linings. See J.B. Williams, Memorandum Re: Vehicle Brake Rebuilding (August 23, 1973).
In that same month, Ford issued Maintenance Bulletin No. 137, warning Ford employees that
“[o]verexposure to asbestos fiber in the air can occur during inspection and repair operations on
brakes, brake drums, clutches, and associated components of these units when compressed air is
used to blow off asbestos laden dust.” Ford Plant Engineering Office Manufacturing Staff,
Maintenance Bulletin, No. 137 (August 1973).
In place of compressed air blow out, Ford ordered its employees to use specially designed
vacuums, which its Rotunda Equipment Division later marketed to Ford dealerships. See J.R.
Knauss, Memorandum Re: Controlling Asbestos Exposure (November 16, 1973); see also Ford
Parts and Service Division, General Field Bulletin No. 1469, Re: Rotunda Shop Safety
Equipment Promotion (July 8, 1976) (“Rotunda has just added a special vacuum cleaner to its
equipment line, which is designed to remove hazardous asbestos dust fibers which result from
certain brake and clutch operations.”); Ford Rotunda 1977 Dealer Catalog.
By late 1975, Ford issued a technical service bulletin that contained a section entitled, “Brake
Asbestos Dust Fiber Removal.” The Bulletin read: “CAUTION: Dust and dirt conditions present
on wheel brake assemblies and rotors and drums, may contain asbestos fibers that can represent a
potential health hazard when made airborne by cleaning with compressed air.” Ford, Technical
Service Bulletin No. 99 (1975). Ford reaffirmed its position on blow out exposure in an April 23,
1975 internal letter, where Ford stated, “for the most part, whenever air hoses were used to clean
dust out of brake drums, we found exposures in excess of limits established in OSHA standards
on asbestos dust.” Letter from Paul E. Toth, Supervisor, Ford Industrial Hygiene Section, to T.
Cole, Ford Chemistry Department, Re: Exposure of Garage Mechanics to Brake Dust (April 23,
Finally, in September of 1981, Ford’s Manufacturing Guideline stated that “[o]verexposure to
asbestos fiber in the air can occur during inspection and repair operations especially when
compressed air is used to blow off dust.”
After the wheel well is cleaned, the mechanic is faced with two choices, repair the existing brake
shoes or replace them. Either operation can result in significant exposure to asbestos dust.
Brakes can fail for a lot of different reasons. Prolonged riding of the brakes or improper break-in
can cause one of the brake linings to become glazed or matted. Friction between the brake shoes
and backing platforms can cause a shoe to hang up when it is released causing uneven wear. In
these instances, the recommended procedure was to use sandpaper or a file to roughen or remove
part of the lining’s surface. See, e.g., Chrysler’s Master Technician’s Service Reference Book,
Brake Service (1964). In addition, for brake squeal, mechanics inserted compressed air, blew out
the drums, support plate and shoes, then crosshatched the lining with a hacksaw. Finally, to
correct shoe knock, mechanics would break up the helix of the lining with vigorous hand
When installing new brakes, sandpaper was also used to eliminate “high-spots” on the brake
lining of drum brakes to ensure smooth braking and to eliminate motor oil or other lubricants
from the surfaces of disk pad, brake pads and clutch facings caused by greasy fingers. The heels
and toes of the brake lining frequently had to be ground to ensure a proper fit. In earlier days,
brake shoe linings were beveled with a grinder, the entire longitudinal surface scoured to attain
the proper angle for installation.
The machining of brake linings, either by sandpaper, file, or grinder, does not involve the
conversion of chrysotile. Instead, the mechanic is manipulating a product that contains on
average 50% asbestos and his actions liberate those fibers from their binder and introduce them
into the air around him. While there have not been studies examining each of the job duties
described above, there have been a substantial number of studies regarding the manipulation of
new brake linings. It is important to note, however, that there are no studies that pre-date the late
1960s. Below is a picture of the brake grinding attachment from Ammco:
In the picture below, the brake lathe is the device on the left and the brake grinder attachment is
on the right:
In 1969, Ford Industrial Hygiene Specialists report that they have specifically analyzed the dust
produced by sanding asbestos brake linings and found 28% of the dust was asbestos fibers. D.E.
Hickish & K.L. Knight, Exposure to Asbestos During Brake Maintenance, 13 Ann. Occup. Hyg.
17-21 (1970). In concluding their presentation, these Ford specialists noted, “[o]ur environmental
studies have not included maintenance procedures which involve the filing and grinding of brake
lining material, and we would envisage that these would give rise to considerably increased air
contamination by chrysotile asbestos, with the attendant need for strict precautions to prevent the
inhalation of fibers.” Id. at 21.
In the early/mid 1970′s, Dr. Arthur Rohl, and his colleagues at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine,
measured asbestos dust levels for various brake repair activities on trucks. Fiber concentrations,
all above the current PEL/TLV, were as follows: grinding linings, 3.8 fibers/ml; beveling new
linings, 37.3 fiber/ml; riveting linings, 1.5 fibers/ml; sweeping floors around the grinding area,
3.6 fibers/ml. Arthur N. Rohl, A.M. Langer, M.S. Wolff, & I. Weisman, Asbestos Exposure
During Brake Lining Maintenance and Repair, 12 Env’l Research 110, 122 (1976). In another
report, light grinding of new linings yielded 4.8 fibers/ml and grinding new linings before
installation yielded 2.7 fibers/ml. William V. Lorimer, A.N. Rohl, A. Miller, W.J. Nicholson, I.J.
Selikoff, Asbestos Exposure or Brake Repair Workers in the United States, 43 Mount Sinai J. of
Med. 207-217 (May-June 1976).
In a 1987 Finnish study, researchers confirmed these results, noting that “grinding of new linings
is an operation that may cause heavy exposure unless the enclosure and the local ventilation are
efficient.” In fact, grinding asbestos brakes for one hour without exhaust ventilation resulted a
time-weighted average of almost 10 f/cc. Kauppinen & Korhonen, Exposure to Asbestos During
Brake Maintenance of Automotive Vehicles by Different Methods, 48 Am. Ind. Hyg. Assoc. J.
The International Programme on Chemical Safety (“IPCS”) study also confirms that brake
mechanics have had significant asbestos exposure from machining brake products. In its report,
IPCS concluded, “[a] considerable number of reports have included airborne asbestos
concentrations during maintenance and replacement of vehicle brakes. In the early period, poor
or no engineering control measures were utilized, resulting in high total dust exposures.” IPSC,
Environmental Health Criteria 203, Chrysotile Asbestos 41 (Geneva, 1998). Specifically cited
within the report were such machining activities as grinding, drilling, boring, as well as packing,
storage and distribution. Id. The report acknowledges that the most likely place for workers to be
exposed is during installation of asbestos friction products. Id. at 138. Peak concentration
measurements for maintenance activities during the 1970s were cited at 16 f/ml. Id. Similarly, in
Japan, between 1970 and 1975, mean concentrations of 10-35 f/ml were measured, and between
1984 and 1986 (presumably with better dust control measures in place) mean concentrations of
0.2 – 5.5 f/ml were measured. Id. at 3.
In addition to the extensive published literature on the subject, corporate records and trade
association documents demonstrate that, without doubt, machining friction materials creates
significant levels of exposure to asbestos.
As early as the 1930′s, GM was apparently aware that the grinding of asbestos friction products
generated significant asbestos exposure. As a result, GM provided exhaust ventilation at the
grinding machines in its asbestos friction product plant and monitored asbestos dust levels in the
operations. See Case, 1939 GM Inland Mfg. Dust Studies Dayton, Ohio (October 31 and
November 1, 1939).
Similarly, only a few years after Chrysler began making asbestos friction products in 1959, as
early as May 27, 1963, Chrysler was measuring airborne asbestos concentrations in its Trenton
plant and finding measurements exceeding the current PEL/TLV. Dust Study Performed At
Chrysler Plant In Trenton, New Jersey (May 27, 1963).
Many of the operations conducted at the Dayton and Trenton plants were admittedly similar to
those that a mechanic would perform if he ground asbestos brake parts before putting them on a
In 1971, Dr. Dement performed asbestos dust surveys at the Worldbestos asbestos brake
manufacturing plant in Indiana. He performed individual tests in the areas for grinding, sanding
and drilling friction products, as well as for inspecting and packing the friction products. Dr.
Dement reported exposures of 20 f/ml during grinding and peaks of 10 f/ml simply discarding
old linings. Department Of Health, Education and Welfare, Minutes Of Occupational Exposure
To Asbestos Dust From Brake Linings Meeting (July 21, 1973).
Similarly, dust studies at Bendix’s Ontario friction product manufacturing plants showed
excessive dust readings. The dust study considered exposure in areas where the employees
drilled, riveted and ground asbestos brake products. For example, in August 1976, with dust
protection measures in place, measurements of 0.09, 0.14, 0.49 and 0.77 f/cc were found. In
November 1979, with dust protection measures in place, measurements of 1.8, 4.3, and 5.9 f/cc
were found. Memorandum of Dust Studies at Bendix, Walkerville, Ontario (August 24, 1976 and
May, June, July 1977); Ontario Ministry of Labour, Field Visit Report, Dust Studies at Bendix,
Windsor, Ontario (January 9, 1979)
In December 1979, GM confirmed that brake work creates exposure in an article in Business
Week. The Growing Need For Asbestos Substitutes, Business Week, December 3, 1979, at 98D.
The article discusses the brake repair worker practice of sanding asbestos brake linings, and
quotes a GM engineer’s response: “[t]his puts all sorts of harmful fibers in the air.” Id.
In August 1983, Ford issued its Industrial Relations Bulletin No. 4 on Asbestos. Ford Employee
Health Service, Industrial Relations Bulletin, No. 4, Industrial Hygiene (August 22, 1983). Ford
noted that asbestos exposures “can cause asbestosis, cancer of the lungs and digestive tract, and
mesothelioma”. Under a section entitled “Employee Exposure,” Ford’s Employee Health
Services Department wrote: “& [E]mployee exposure can generally occur during material
handling and maintenance of asbestos-containing friction materials. Exposure can occur during
grinding, sawing, sanding, drilling or otherwise disturbing or finishing asbestos-containing
The major brake manufacturers’ trade association, The Friction Materials Standards Institute
(“FMSI”) shared the generally accepted understanding that brake workers in the field were
exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos from drilling, cutting, beveling and grinding linings. The
FMSI was a trade association of most of the leading friction materials manufacturers including
GM, Chrysler, Bendix, Abex, JM, Raybestos and others.
The issue of asbestos exposure from friction products was a regular and ongoing concern for the
FMSI. For example, toward the end of 1972, FMSI told its membership that a problem existed
when brake linings and clutch facings were cut, grooved, drilled or ground after shipment,
because these operations produced high concentrations of airborne asbestos fibers. E.W.
Drislane, Executive Director, FMSI, Memorandum Re: Interpretative of OSHA Labeling
Requirements (November 6, 1972)
Three weeks later, in a letter to an official at Bendix Corporation, Drislane warned that “[w]hen
customers of yours drill linings, chamfer linings, cut linings, or grind linings, they may very well
raise the asbestos concentrations in the atmosphere to above the OSHA standard.” Letter from
E.W. Drislane, Executive Director of FMSI, to J.H. Kelly, Bendix Corporation (November 28,
1972). He added that “[s]ome members have indicated that the drilling and grinding operations
are problem areas in brake lining factories with existing exhaust systems. Therefore, if a
customer of yours started drilling or grinding without having proper dust collectors, he would
probably be in violation of the OSHA standard. It therefore becomes your responsibility, as a
supplier of the brake lining, to warn the customer of this possibility.”
Then on February 16, 1973, the FMSI’s Asbestos Study Committee noted that, “[i]n many
drilling and grinding operations without dust collectors, Committee members indicated that the
10 fibers/cc ceiling concentration has been exceeded.” Minutes of the FMSI’s Asbestos Study
Committee (February 16, 1973). Most Committee members believed that, where no adequate
dust collection machinery was employed, ” the 5 fibers/cc (Time Weighted Average) is exceeded
in many areas such as inspection, drilling, and grinding”. The Committee acknowledged that
such exposure might be particularly likely in garages where drilling and grinding is often
necessary and adequate dust collection equipment is absent. On this point, the Committee noted:
“[w]hile the members of the OEM accounts are dealing with manufacturers who should
understand the OSHA regulations, the biggest problem may be with the small shops that are
exempt from the requirements of the OSHA regulations.” The Committee also acknowledged
that exposures may occur just from opening boxes containing new friction products. On this
point, the Committee stated, “with undusted linings from a manufacturer [,] it is likely that
customer inspection, or possibly opening of cartons, could show airborne fiber concentrations in
excess of the 5 fiber/cc (TWA).” (emphasis added).
In June 1973, the Asbestos Study Committee once again expressed concern regarding asbestos
exposure from friction products, when Mr. Weaver, Chairman of the Committee and Vice
President of Raybestos-Manhattan, suggested that the possibility of additional cutting, drilling, or
grinding is always present and that he felt the OSHA warning label should be used for these
operations as well. Minutes of the FMSI’s Asbestos Study Committee (June 1973). On its face, the
OSHA requirement only applied to “friable” products, those that give off dust when handled. Mr.
Weaver’s point was that all of the membership knew that these subsequent machining operations
were inevitable and when the mechanics engaged in those activities, asbestos dust can be
generated at levels more than the 5 fiber/cc limit in the OSHA standards.
Mr. Weaver emphasized this common sense approach during his speech to the Annual Meeting
of the FMSI when he told those assembled that the claim by some of the other asbestos product
manufacturers that the OSHA regulations did not apply to them because the asbestos in their
products was “locked in” and could not become airborne during use was not “at all applicable to
friction materials.” I.H. Weaver, Address at the Annual Membership Meeting of the FMSI,
Asbestos and the Friction Material Industry (June 27, 1973). He further stated that operations
and alterations of asbestos friction materials in the field “could result in excessive exposures of
workers or bystanders to airborne asbestos fiber.”
5. ASBESTOS DISEASE AMONG FRICTION PRODUCT WORKERS
The first articles dealing with the appearance of asbestos disease among workers who were
exposed to dust from friction products in the manufacturing setting began appearing in the mid-
1930s. In England, in 1935, a Memorandum on the Industrial Diseases of Silicosis and
Asbestosis by His Majesty’s Stationery Office contains the following paragraph:
Industries and processes in which asbestosis occurs. – Processes involving exposures to asbestos
dust which are known to give rise to asbestosis or in which the conditions are such as to be liable
to produce the disease, are the breaking, crushing, disintegrating, opening and grinding of
asbestos and the mixing or sieving of asbestos or any admixture of asbestos, the manufacture of
asbestos textiles, the making of insulating slabs or sections and the making or repairing of
insulating mattresses composed wholly or partly of asbestos, and the sawing, grinding and
turning in the dry state of articles composed wholly or partly of asbestos such as motor car
brake and clutch linings, jointings, electric insulating materials and some types of electrodes.
In the same year, the Department of Labor and Industry of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
reported its results of a survey of several plants in the state that made asbestos cloth, brake
linings, insulating tape and rope and wick. The researchers found that 25% of the workers
employed in these fabricating plants had both clinical and chest x-ray evidence of asbestosis.
The recognition that the asbestos incorporated into friction products was capable of producing
disease was supported by other investigations of the friction product manufacturing facilities. In
1939, Drs. George and Leonard published the results of their study of one of the large industrial
plants in Massachusetts where brake linings were manufactured. Out of ninety workers, the
researchers made a positive diagnosis of asbestosis in 12 and a diagnosis of questionable
asbestosis in three others. George et al., An X-ray Study of the Lungs of Workmen in Asbestos
Industry Covering a Period of Ten Years, Radiology, 33:196-202 (1939). Another study of the
same plant yielded astounding results, 82% of the 180 workers examined had symptoms and
chest x-ray evidence of pulmonary asbestosis, 78 patients with Stage I, early asbestosis, 54
patients with Stage II, moderate asbestosis, and 16 patients with Stage III, advanced asbestosis.
Stone, Studies in Asbestosis, Disease of the Chest, 6:170-171 (1940).
This level of disease was also noted in German friction product facilities. In Germany, asbestosis
was recognized as an occupational disease in 1937. As part of this recognition, workers in all
asbestos manufacturing plants were examined annually. Among the plants subject to this
requirement, were facilities where asbestos brake bands were manufactured. These brake bands
were composed of asbestos remnants that were impregnated by an artificial resin. The resulting
band was then ground to obtain the correct thickness and drilled to create rivet holes to attach the
brake lining to the metal brake shoe. In examining the workers who did the grinding and drilling,
researchers found that after two years of working with these brake bands, a few isolated cases of
slight asbestosis occurred. After five years, however, definite changes of asbestosis on clinical
and x-ray examinations were found in all workers. Brackman, Asbestosis in Grinders and
Drillers of Brake Bands, Arbeitzschutz (1940) abstract printed in Journal of Industrial Hygiene
and Toxicology, 23(4):76-77(1941)
The risk of asbestosis in the manufacturing of friction products was not lost on the brake lining
manufacturers. In 1944, while discussing asbestosis, L.E. Hamlin, the Medical Director of
American Brake Shoe Company wrote that:
The greatest occupational hazard exists in mining, handling and crushing crude asbestos, making
insulation and the carding and weaving of asbestos. In other industries such as the compounding
of materials for automobile brake linings, the hazard is recognized but the disease is uncommon.
He went on to note that:
In one of our plants where considerable asbestos is used in the manufacture of automobile brake
linings, a recent survey of 189 employees exposed to variable amounts of dust, revealed no
actual cases of fibrosis. A few men’s films showed haziness which suggested evidence of
disease, but they were not sufficiently typical to warrant a diagnosis of asbestosis. However, it
should be stated that the hazard in this particular plant is well controlled by adequate exhaust
The hazardous nature of the asbestos used in brake products was also not lost on V.J. Castrop,
the Assistant Head of the Industrial Hygiene Department of General Motors Corporation. He is a
paper entitled Fume and Dust Exposure to presented to the Automotive and Machine Shop
Section of the National Safety Council and subsequently published in the National Safety News
in February of 1948, he conceded that:
[a]sbestos used in the formulation of brake lining is a potentially harmful compound. This
material is the offending agent in the production of the lung aliment known as asbestosis. The
harmful effect is comparable to that of silica and a permissible limit of 5,000,000 particle of
asbestos dust per cubic foot of air is generally recognized. Dust exposure to asbestos and other
ingredients of the brake lining exist when the dry materials are handled and emptied into the
mixers and in the subsequent operations of slitting, grinding, or surfacing.
The hazards of friction product manufacture were also noted in Australia where chest x-rays of
300 asbestos workers were examined and 47 demonstrated positive evidence of asbestosis. The
occupations of the group diagnosed with asbestosis involved, among others, the “sawing, cutting
and finishing any product containing asbestos – for example brake linings.” Thomas,
Pneumonokoniosis in Victorian Industry, Medical Journal of Australia, January 19, 1957, pp. 75-
In addition, a National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health review of 20 long-term
employees of a friction products plant in New Jersey identified 7 workers with chest x-ray
abnormalities consistent with the effects of asbestos exposure. Two of the 7 had asbestosis and 5
exhibited asbestos-related pleural abnormalities. NOISH Investigation, Friction Division
Products, Trenton, New Jersey, September 1986.
The incidence of asbestosis was not limited to only those workers engaged in the manufacturing
of asbestos brake linings. As early as 1943, workers had filed claims alleging they contracted
asbestosis as a result of working with asbestos brake linings in garages. See e.g., Converse v.
State, 181 Misc. 113, 41 N.Y. 245 (Court of Claims N.Y. 1943). In fact, all over the world,
researchers have reported the incidence of asbestosis in automobile mechanics engaged in the
repair and replacement of brake linings.
For instance, in England, McVittie published an analysis of cases of asbestosis approved by the
Pneumoconiosis Medical Panel of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance that
moderates England’s Workers Compensation Program. From 1955 through 1963, four cases of
asbestosis were approved in brake lining workers, workers engaged in the repairs to brake and
clutch parts. McVittie, Asbestosis in Great Britain, Ann NY Acad Sci 132:128-138 (1965). An
additional ten cases of asbestosis in brake repair workers were approved from 1963 through
1969. Smither, Surveillance of High-Risk Groups – A survey of asbestos workers: the present
position in the United Kingdom, Ann NY Acad Sci 330:525-532 (1979).
In Germany, two cases of asbestosis were found among 39 vehicular maintenance workers who
had performed brake lining service for about = to 2 hours a day for eight years. Boillat et al., Risk
of Asbestosis in Workers Employed in Replacing Automobile Brake Linings, Schweiz Med
Wschr 103(39):1354-1359 (1973) cited in Lorimer et al., Asbestos Exposure of Brake Repair
Workers in the United States, Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, 43(3):207-218, May-June 1976
at page 208.
In the United States, Lorimer and his colleagues at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New
York published the results of their examination of 104 members of a union of vehicular
maintenance workers. Many of these workers showed signs of asbestosis, 29% had a decreased
vital capacity on pulmonary function testing and 27% had chest x-ray abnormalities. The authors
noted, “the prevalence both of chest x-ray changes and restrictive function results was
significantly higher after 20 years exposure than before, a result expected after occupational
exposure to asbestos.” Lorimer, supra, at p. 217. The authors then concluded that their findings
“suggest that asbestos disease will be present among such workers and that appropriate control
measures should be urgently instituted.” Id.
In 1976, Dr. Selikoff, one of the premier asbestos researchers at Mt. Sinai, visited with
representatives of the Big Three Automobile Manufacturers – Chrysler, Ford and Genera Motors,
and discussed the high levels of asbestos found in brake linings and the high incidence of
disease, twenty-four percent, found in a group of garage workers he had examined. See Letter of
Armstrong to Riopelle regarding Selikoff’s visit to the Big Three, June 11, 1976.
In 1983, William Nicholson, a research scientist at Mt. Sinai, examined three groups of workers,
garage mechanics who repaired brakes, garage mechanics who did no brake repair work and a
blue-collar control group. He found:
A greater prevalence of x-ray abnormalities is found among garage mechanics who repaired
brakes than among blue collar controls or garage workers who do not engage in brake or auto
body work. . . . a significant excess is seen in workers who had occasion to grind and machine
brake linings prior to installation on larger vehicles. The prevalence of x-ray abnormalities is in
accord with estimates of asbestos exposure in the different circumstances.
Investigation of Health Hazards in Brake Lining Repair and Maintenance Workers
Occupationally Exposed to Asbestos, Environmental Sciences Laboratory, Mount Sinai School
of Medicine of the City University of New York, pp. 93-95 (NIOSH 1983).
In Finland, six verified cases of asbestosis have been reported to the Finnish Register of
Occupational Diseases during the period of 1964 to 1984. See Kauppinen et al., Exposure to
Asbestos During Brake Maintenance of Automotive Vehicles by Different Methods, Am Ind Hyg
Assoc J, 48(5):499-504(1987). The disease occurred in four car mechanics, one turner, and one
Finally, in Sweden, 41 car mechanics were diagnosed with asbestos-related pleural plaques.
Marcus et al., Asbestos-associated lung effects in car mechanics, Scand J Work Environ Health,
It has been estimated that 20,000 deaths from asbestos-related cancer will occur during the next
40 years among automotive maintenance workers in the United States. See Huncharek, Brake
Mechanics, Asbestos, and Disease Risk, Amer J Forensic Med and Path, 11(3):236-240 (1990).
Asbestos friction product manufacturers have known about the capability of asbestos fibers to
cause cancer since the early 1940s. In 1936, a group of asbestos friction product manufacturers
agreed to sponsor a series of animal experiments by Dr. Leroy Gardner of the Saranac
Laboratories in New York. Although Dr. Gardner’s study revealed that a 81.8% of mice that had
been inhaling asbestos dust from 15 to 24 months developed lung tumors, the friction product
manufacturers reviewed his findings and agreed to delete any reference to cancer and tumors.
By the early 1960s, asbestos had been established as a cause for lung cancer and brake lining and
clutch facing was known to be an operation that brought users and consumers in contact with
asbestos. See Hueper, Carcinogens in the Human Environment, Archives of Pathology,
71(3):237-267 (1961). Dr. Enterline studied lung cancer rates among various occupational
groups in the United States and found that automobile mechanics and repairmen had
significantly elevated mortality rates. In fact, by 1970, Dr. Merle Gibson, Medical Director of the
Inland Division of General Motors, believed that asbestos was the main cause of lung cancer and
objected to any additional input of asbestos into the air, no matter how slight. See Memo to File:
Visit to Inland Division of General Motors, August 31, 1970.
Subsequently, in 1976, researchers found a significantly elevated Standard Mortality Ratio
(SMR) for lung cancer of 146 for automobile repair. See Menck et al., Occupational Differences
in Rates of Lung Cancer, Journal of Occupational Medicine, 18(12) 797-801 (1976). In 1984,
McDonald and associates found a significant increase in the rate of death from respiratory cancer
in workers at a friction products manufacturing facility; 49 observed, 35.7 expected for an SMR
of 137. McDonald et al., Dust Exposure and Mortality in an American Chrysotile Asbestos
Friction Products Plant, Brit J Indus Med, 41:151-157 (1984). Finally in 1988, an extensive
review of car mechanics in Sweden revealed a significant increase in lung cancer deaths when
compared to the general population; 39 observed, 23 expected for an SMR 170. Jarvholm &
Brisman, Asbestos associated tumours in car mechanics, brit. j. indust. med., 45:645-646 (1988).
A non-statistical biological reason supporting the causal relationship between asbestos exposure
in automobile repair and the development of lung cancer is the documentation of physical
evidence of the causative agent in the lung tissues of exposed mechanics. For example, Dr.
Andrew Churg and Barry Wiggs reported on the size and number of asbestos fibers found in 3
brake workers who had developed lung cancer, 2 brake mechanics and 1 brake lining factory
worker. Churg et al., Fiber Size and Number in Workers Exposed to Processed Chrysotile
Asbestos, Chrysotile Miners, and the General Population, Am J Ind Med, 9:143-152 (1986). In
comparison to the general population, the authors found that the mean concentration of asbestos
in brake workers exceeded the controls. In fact, the authors noted that two of the brake workers
had mean fiber lengths and aspect ratios roughly equal to those found in textile workers. This is
important because asbestos textile workers have been found to experience statistically significant
excess mortality from lung cancer. See Dement et al., Follow-up study of chrysotile asbestos
textile workers: cohort mortality and case-control analyses, Am J Ind Med, 26(4):431-447
(1994)(SMR of 230 for lung cancer in South Carolina textile plant workers).
Another recent report identified a case of asbestosis and small cell lung cancer caused by
asbestos in a clutch refabricator. Levin et al., Asbestosis and small cell lung cancer in a clutch
refrabricator, Occup Environ Med, 56(9):602-605 (1999). In analyzing lung tissue samples, the
authors found asbestos fibers in numbers greatly exceeding reported environmental
concentrations. The authors concluded that clutch prefabrication may lead to exposure to
asbestos of sufficient magnitude to cause asbestosis and lung cancer.
Mesothelioma is a particularly insidious cancer of the lining of the lung, heart and peritoneal
cavity that is inevitably fatal and has been conclusively linked to occupational exposure to
asbestos. The association between the development of mesothelioma and the inhalation of
asbestos fibers is so strong that mesothelioma is known as a “signature disease,” one for which a
single causative agent, asbestos, has been identified, and without exposure to which the disease
does not typically occur. See M. Green, D. M. Freedman & L. Gordis, Reference Guide On
Epidemiology, Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence at 381 fn. 128 (2nd ed. Federal Judicial
Center 2000). Indeed, it is only with signature diseases like mesothelioma that it is ever certain
that an ill individual that has been exposed to a toxic agent fell ill because of the exposure. D.
Faigman, D. Kaye, M. Saks & J. Sanders, 2 Modern Scientific Evidence ‘ 28-2.3 at 341 ) (“In
spite of the asbestos litigation’s enormous size, cases involving the admissibility of scientific
evidence have been relatively rare. In part, this is due to the fact that some asbestos related
injuries, e.g. mesothelioma, are ‘signature diseases.’ That is, they are uniquely related to asbestos
exposure and are rarely observed in individuals not exposed.”). Accordingly, the presence of
mesothelioma in an individual presumes that the cause was exposure to asbestos. See Hall v.
Baxter HealthCare Corp., 947 F.Supp. 1387, 1402, fn. 33 (D. Oregon 1996)(“A signature disease
is one so associated with a particular cause that the presence of the disease presumes that cause.
For example, malignant mesothelioma is a signature disease for asbestos causation.”); Blancha v.
Keene Corp., 1991 WL 224573 at 3 (E.D. Pa. 1991) (“The only known cause of mesothelioma is
exposure to, and inhalation of, asbestos dust and fibers.”).
Despite this strong connection, mesothelioma remains a relatively rare disease among those
exposed to asbestos, afflicting one in one hundred thousand workers. In the population of people
who have had no significant exposure to asbestos, however, the occurrence of mesothelioma is
exceedingly rare, occurring in one in a million persons and appearing in only one in ten thousand
autopsies. With the exception of the minute quantities of asbestos present in the ambient air in
most communities, medical science has been unable to establish a minimum threshold of
exposure to asbestos below which cases of mesothelioma will not occur.
While the subject of some controversy, it is generally accepted that all of the different asbestos
fiber types are capable of causing mesothelioma, including chrysotile, the type of asbestos used
in friction products. Manufacturers of friction products as well as their trade organizations have
conceded that chrysotile asbestos is capable of causing mesothelioma. For example, in a
memorandum that he wrote at the request of The Bendix Corporation reviewing the known
health hazards of asbestos, Jacob Tawiah reported all forms of asbestos cause asbestosis, lung
cancer and mesothelioma. See Tawiah, Health-Hazards of Asbestos – A Review of the Medical
Literature, The Bendix Corporation (Honeywell)(December 11, 1975).
In addition, Ike Weaver, the President of Raybestos-Manhattan, one of the world’s largest
producer of asbestos friction products, and the Chairman of the Friction Materials Standards
Institute Asbestos Study Committee, reporting on a meeting held by the International Agency for
Research on Cancer that was held in Lyon, France that involved four days of intensive sessions
on asbestos held by three different panels, each made up of ten to twenty-five of the foremost
medical and scientific experts operating in the various fields of asbestos-health research,
revealed that the most important conclusion was “the incrimination of all major types of asbestos
as causal agents for carcinoma, particularly mesothelioma.” Asbestos and the Friction Material
Industry, Minutes of the FMSI (June 27, 1973)(emphasis in original); see also Minutes of
Asbestos Study Committee, FMSI (March 10, 1975)(reporting on British paper that animals
exposed to all samples of asbestos developed mesothelioma and Mr. Weaver’s comment that
“this was bad news for those hoping that chrysotile would be proven not to be associated with
The conclusions expressed by Mr. Tawiah of The Bendix Corporation and Mr. Weaver of
Raybestos-Manhattan has been echoed by every public health organization and governmental
agency that has investigated this issue. The comments from of the New York State Asbestos
Advisory Board are particularly instructive:
[t]he claim that various types of asbestos differ in their hazard is particularly insidious. It is put
forth by the manufacturers of Canadian asbestos (chrysotile asbestos), the type of asbestos most
widely used in New York and throughout the United States. The central claim here is that the
Canadian product, termed “chrysotile asbestos” is relatively harmless. However, that claim is not
based on fact, and it is not supported by the results of epidemiological and toxicological studies
conducted in the United States and overseas. These studies show that all types of asbestos,
including Canadian asbestos, are fully capable of producing the full spectrum of asbestosrelated
diseases including asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, cancer of the
pharynx and cancer of the gastrointestinal tract.
Bold, Bianci, DeVito, Landrigan, Pettengil, Second Annual Report, State of New York, Asbestos
Advisory Board, February 1990 (emphasis added).
In 1986, the Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA) “reviewed numerous
epidemiological studies concerning the toxicity and carcinogenicity of different asbestos fiber
types.” OSHA, Occupational Exposure to Asbestos, Tremolite, Anthophylite, and Actinolite;
Final Rules, (1986). After reviewing 55,000 pages of medical and scientific articles and
testimony, OSHA concluded, “all fiber types, alone or in combination, have been observed in
studies to induce lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis in exposed workers.” Id.
In 1994, OSHA reiterated that the “evidence submitted in support of the claim that chrysotile
asbestos is less toxic than other asbestos fiber types is related primarily to mesothelioma. This
evidence is unpersuasive, and it provides an insufficient basis upon which to regulate that fiber
type less stringently.” Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 29
CFR Parts 1910, et al, Occupational Exposure to Asbestos; Final Rule, (August 10,
1994)(emphasis added). OSHA concluded, “although there is some evidence linking chrysotile to
a lower mesothelioma rate than some amphibole fiber types, OSHA believes that there is
insufficient evidence to show that chrysotile does not present a significant mesothelioma risk to
exposed employees.” Id.
The International Agency for the Research on Cancer, the Environmental Protection Agency, the
United States Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health all reached similar conclusions after their own independent
reviews of the literature and scientific evidence. See IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of the
Carcinogenicity of Chemical to Humans (1979)(“pleural and peritoneal mesotheliomas have
been observed after occupational exposure to crocidolite, amosite and chrysotile asbestos”);
Environmental Protection Agency, Asbestos: Manufacture, Importation, Processing and
Distribution in Commerce Prohibitions; Final Rule, (July 12, 1989)(“available information
indicates that the combined epidemiological and animal evidence fail to establish conclusively
differences in mesothelioma hazard for the various types of asbestos fibers”); Asbestos
Bibliography, U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services (September 1997)(“both
epidemiologic evidence and experimental confirmation indicate that chrysotile, amosite, and
crocidolite asbestos are causative agents for mesothelioma”); Atlas of Respiratory Disease
Mortality, United States: 1982-1993, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1998.
Moreover, in 1998, the International Progamme on Chemical Safety (IPCS), under the joint
sponsorship of the United Nations Environment Program, the International Labor Organization
and the World Health Organization, published a monograph devoted exclusively to chrysotile
asbestos. After reviewing over 400 medical articles, the IPCS found that “commercial grades of
chrysotile have been associated with an increased risk of pneumoconiosis, lung cancer and
mesothelioma in numerous epidemiological studies of exposed workers,” and concluded that
“exposure to chrysotile asbestos poses increased risks for asbestosis, lung cancer and
mesothelioma in a dose-dependent manner.” IPCS Environmental Health Criteria 203 -
Chrysotile Asbestos, World Health Organization, pp. 7, 168 (1998).
Many recent medical and scientific articles support the findings of these governmental agencies
and health organizations. See e.g., Yano, Wang, Wang, Wang and Lan, Cancer Mortality among
Workers Exposed to Amphibole-free Chrysotile Asbestos, Am J Epid, 154(6): 538-543 (Sept.
2001)(a finding of 2 mesothelioma death cases among 132 deaths of employees of a factory
using chrysotile asbestos suggested “a strong potential for chrysotile asbestos alone to cause lung
cancer and mesothelioma.”); Suzuki & Yuen, Asbestos Tissue Burden Study on Human
Malignant Mesothelioma, Industrial Health, 39:150-160 (2001)(in 25% of the mesothelioma
cases studied, only chrysotile asbestos was found prompting authors to conclude that chrysotile
could induce mesothelioma); Nicholson, The Carcinogenicity of Chrysotile Asbestos – A Review,
Industrial Health, 39:57-64 (2001)(“there is strong support for the proposition that chrysotile is a
potent causative factor in producing mesothelioma and that the risk associated with exposure to
chrysotile in producing mesothelioma is similar to that of amosite on a per fiber exposure
basis”); Landrigan, Nicholson, Suzuki and Ladou, The Hazards of Chrysotile Asbestos: A
Critical Review, Industrial Health, 37:271-280 (1999)(after reviewing 40 different studies of
workers exposed to asbestos, the authors concluded that, “[c]linical and epidemiologic studies
have established beyond all reasonable doubt that chrysotile asbestos causes cancer of the lung,
malignant mesothelioma of the pleura and peritoneum, cancer of the larynx and certain
gastrointestinal cancers.” ); Langer, Asbestos in the lungs of persons exposed in the USA,
Monaldi Archives of Chest Diseases, 53(2):168-180 (1998)(in 12% of the mesothelioma cases,
the only asbestos fiber detected was chrysotile); Cullen, Chrysotile asbestos: enough is enough,
the Lancet 351:1377-1378 (1998); Landrigan, Asbestos – still a carcinogen, New Eng J Med,
338:1618-1619 (1998); Smith and Wright, Chrysotile Asbestos is the Main Cause of Pleural
Mesothelioma, American Journal of Industrial Medicine 30:252-66 (1996)( “chrysotile asbestos
is by far the main contributor to pleural mesothelioma causation in the United States and other
countries in which it has been the predominate fiber”).
With respect to friction product, researchers have documented physical evidence demonstrating
that exposure to chrysotile asbestos in brakes and clutches caused the development of
mesothelioma. In their paper, “Mesothelioma in a Brake Repair Worker,” The Lancet, November
13, 1982, Drs. Langer and McCaughey, described “a diffuse pleural mesothelioma in a man
whose sole exposure to asbestos was to the chrysotile form during brake maintenance and
repair.” To confirm this occupational history, autopsy tissue specimens of the lung were
examined and electron diffraction analysis confirmed the structures found in the lung to be that
of chrysotile asbestos.
In another study, Dr. Huncharek reported on tissue samples taken from the lining of the lung of
an automobile mechanic who died as a result of mesothelioma. An analysis of three such
specimens revealed 51 million to 266 million asbestos fibers per gram of wet tissue, 99% of
which were chrysotile asbestos. See Huncharek, Chrysotile Asbestos Exposure and
Mesothelioma, Brit. J. Indus. Med. 44:287-288 (1987). Given the undeniable association
between exposure to asbestos and the development of mesothelioma, the identification of
asbestos fibers in the lung tissues of individuals afflicted with mesothelioma who performed
brake repair work is conclusive physical evidence of causation.
In addition to these two articles, there have been many articles reporting the occurrence of
mesothelioma in workers who manufactured or repaired asbestos brake linings:
7 Godwin et al., Asbestos and Mesothelioma, jama, 204(11):151 (1968)(43 year-old who wove
brake linings for three years and later died of mesothelioma)
7 McDonald et al., Epidemiology of Primary Malignant Mesothelial Tumors in Canada, Cancer,
914-918 (1970)(reporting mesothelioma in two workers who installed brake linings)
7 Oels et al., Diffuse malignant mesothelioma of the pleura: A review of 37 cases, chest,
60(6):564, December 1971 (mesothelioma in a service station operator)
7 Rubino et al., Epidemiology of pleural mesothelioma in North-western Italy (Piedmont), Brit J
Industr Med, 29:436-442 (1972)(mesothelioma in 3 car assemblers and 1 mould maintenance
technician in a friction material factory)
7 Greenberg et al., Mesothelioma Register 1967-68, Brit. J. Indus. Med. 31:91-104
(1974)(reporting mesothelioma in motor mechanic)
7 Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, CDC, NIOSH, Minutes of Occupational
Exposures to Asbestos Dust from Brake Linings Meeting, July 21, 1973 (Dr. Mancuso reports a
mesothelioma case, proven by autopsy, in a garage mechanic and a mesothelioma in a millright
who was blowing out asbestos, friction-type clutches with compressed air)
7 Kagan et al., Lymphoid and Plasma Cell Malignancies: Asbestos-Related Disorders of Long
Latency, Amer. J. Clin. Path. 80(1):14-15 (1983)(reporting mesothelioma in brake lining
7 Guillon et al., A Case of Association of Myeloproliferative Syndrome and Pleural
Mesothelioma After an Asbestos Exposure, Archives Des Maladies Professionnelles De
Medecine Du Travail Et De Securite Sociale 45(2):119 (1984) (reporting mesothelioma in man
who worked in automobile workshop for many years)
7 Woitowitz et al., Pleuramesothelioma After Asbestos Dust Exposure in Brake Repair Work in
Automobile Repair Workshop: Case Observation, Praxis Und Klinik Der Pneumologie
39(10):362 (1985)(reporting 4 cases of mesothelioma in men exposed to asbestos dust from
7 Huncharek et al., Pleural Mesothelioma in a Brake Mechanic, Brit. J. Indus. Med, 46:69-71
(1989)(describing mesothelioma in man whose only asbestos exposure was from clutch and
7 Huncharek et al., Pleural Mesothelioma in a Lift Mechanic, Brit. J. Indus. Med, 46:500-501
(1989)(describing mesothelioma in patient whose primary exposure was to chrysotile asbestos
from lift pad brakes)
7 Alberta, Canada, Human Resources and Employment, Workplace Health and Safety, Report of
Occupational Disease Fatalities, January 2001 to December 31, 2001 (58 year old heavy duty
mechanic developed mesothelioma as a result of a 26 year exposure to asbestos dust from brake
linings and clutches and a 74 year old truck driver/parts person was exposed to asbestos while
handling brakes and developed malignant mesothelioma)
7 Alberta, Canada, Human Resources and Employment, Workplace Health and Safety, Report of
Occupational Disease Fatalities, January 2002 to December 31, 2002 (71 year old heavy duty
mechanic died from mesothelioma related to his exposure to asbestos from 1959-1972)
In addition to published case reports, there are instances of mesothelioma in the defendants’
corporate files. For example, James S. Ferguson, an Industrial Hygienist for the Ohio Workers’
Compensation Division reported on D.C. Farley, a 30-year employee of the Delco-Moraine
Division of General Motors who had been diagnosed with mesothelioma. See Report of Ohio
Workers’ Compensation Division of Safety & Hygiene, June 29, 1990. Delco-Moraine is the
division of General Motors where “brake and other friction components are manufactured.” After
reviewing some of the medical literature, Ferguson wrote:
As a result of the very low incidence of this disease in the general population and conclusive
evidence of an increased among asbestos workers (the only known occupational cause), any case
occurring in a person with an industrial asbestos exposure is assumed to a result of the exposure.
In support of his conclusion, Ferguson cites Murphy, Asbestos Related Disease Difficulties in
Diagnosing Occupationally-Related Illness, frontiers in medicine, Vol. 9, 1981 for the
proposition that “[w]hen mesothelioma occurs in an asbestos worker with a prolonged period
from onset of initial exposure to asbestos, it is almost certain that a cause-and-effect relationship
exists.” With respect to the causation in Mr. Farley’s case, Ferguson states, “there is little
argument of cause for mesothelioma when known asbestos exposures have occurred.
The evidence of causation between exposure to asbestos from friction products is not limited
simply to case reports. There is also epidemiologic evidence that supports this relationship. First,
there is some evidence that individuals that manufactured friction products can contract
mesothelioma. A study of 3276 male and female workers in an asbestos textile friction and
packing plant in the United States that used 99% chrysotile asbestos revealed 17 deaths from
mesothelioma, representing 4.3% of all of the deaths. Robinson, Lemen, Wagoner, Mortality
patterns, 1940-1975 among workers employed in an asbestos textile friction and packing
products manufacturing facility, Dust and Disease, Lemen, Dement (eds.). Pathotox publishers,
Park Forest, IL (1979). The authors concluded that there was an excess risk for mesothelioma
among males and females. See also Berry, G., Mortality and Cancer Incidence of Workers
Exposed to Chrysotile Asbestos in the Friction-Products Industry, Ann. Occup. Hyg., 38(4):539-
546 (1994)(A review article demonstrating mesotheliomas among brake factory workers in
Canada and the United Kingdom although noting diagnostic complications as well as possible
amphibole contamination in the plants); Teta, et al, Mesothelioma in Connecticut, 1955-1977,
Journal of Occupational Medicine, 25(10): 749-755 (1983)(identifying 3 cases of mesothelioma
among workers in the Connecticut brake factory of Raybestos-Manhattan: 1 definite, 1 probable
and 1 possible).
Epidemiologic studies have also demonstrated mesothelioma cases among automobile
mechanics. McDonald and his colleagues reported on two workers who developed mesothelioma
as a result of installing brake linings. Epidemiology of Primary Malignant Mesothelial Tumors in
Canada, Cancer, 914-918 (1970). A subsequent study identified 11 mesotheliomas in brake
mechanics but the authors concluded there was no increased risk of developing mesothelioma in
this trade. McDonald et al., Malignant Mesothelioma in North America, Cancer 46:1650-1656
In Sweden, 21,905 car mechanics were followed for 18 years and a case of mesothelioma was
discovered. Given an incidence in the unexposed population of one in million, a single case of
mesothelioma case found after 394,290 person-years of observation would yield an increased
risk of more than twice the expected. The authors, however, did not calculate an expected rate
and seemed to place undue emphasis on the possibility the worker with mesothelioma might
have been exposed to asbestos in another occupation. Jarvholm Asbestos Associated Tumors in
Car Mechanics, Br. j. indus. med., 45:645-646 (1988).
In Denmark, 21,800 auto mechanics were followed for 10 years, yielding 218,000 person-years
of observation. Again, a single case of mesothelioma was discovered and, again, the author did
not calculate an expected rate in the population. Based on the background rate of one in million,
the occurrence of a single case in 218,000 person-years would yield an increased risk greater
than four times the general population. This calculation is supported by the other data in the
paper where the author found one case of a more common respiratory cancer and calculated a
Standard Mortality Ratio of 400. Hansen et al. Mortality of Auto Mechanics, Scand. J. Work and
Environ. Health 15:43-46 (1989).
In a study of mesothelioma cases in the Los Angeles and New York areas, Spirtas broke the
occupational histories into various activities, nine of which demonstrated a significant odds ratio
for the association of asbestos exposure with mesothelioma. One of the nine activities was brake
lining work or repair that included 33 cases of mesothelioma. Because many subjects had
multiple activities involving asbestos exposure, the author was unable to present results for each
of the nine activities individually. Spirtas, Malignant mesothelioma: attributable risk of asbestos
exposure, Occup. and Environ. med. 51:804, 805 (1994)
The most compelling epidemiologic evidence, however, was presented by Dr. Douglas
Henderson, a Professor of Pathology at Flinders University of South Australia and member of an
Expert Medical Panel for the World Trade Organization. He noted that 58 mesotheliomas had
been reported to the Australian Mesothelioma Registry over a thirteen-year period between 1986
and 1999 in individuals who were only exposed to asbestos through their work with friction
products. Analyzing this data in conjunction with census data regarding the number of workers
involved in brake work, Dr. Henderson concluded that friction workers are at a ten-fold
increased risk for contracting mesothelioma when compared to the unexposed population. See
Excerpt from World Trade Organization Report, Report of Dr. Douglas Henderson, p. 303,
There have also been case reports and some epidemiologic support for the occurrence of
mesothelioma among family members of mechanics, individuals whose sole exposure to asbestos
was from the work clothes of their husband or father. See Vianna et al., Non-Occupational
Exposure to Asbestos and Malignant Mesothelioma in Females, The Lancet, May 20, 1978, pp.
1061-63 (reporting two cases of mesothelioma in house wives whose husbands worked with
brake linings); Environmental Protection Agency, Guidance for Preventing Asbestos Disease
Among Auto Mechanics, p. 2 (1986) (describing mesothelioma in a ten-year old son of a brake
mechanic); Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1984)
(citing Ziem who reported on a case of mesothelioma in a mechanic’s wife).
While, from the Plaintiff Attorney’s perspective, there is substantial credible evidence
demonstrating a causal relationship between exposure to friction products and the subsequent
development of mesothelioma, there have been epidemiologic studies that do not support this
proposition. As mentioned above, while McDonald reported mesothelioma in 11 garage workers,
12 controls of his controls had also worked in garages. McDonald et al., Malignant
Mesothelioma in North America, Cancer 46:1650-1656 (1980). While the authors did not
calculate a relative risk or provide any information by which to assess the power of the study to
detect the risk of disease or assess the statistical significance of their findings, they nevertheless
concluded there was no increased risk of mesothelioma.
In Teta’s study, also cited above, there were two cases of mesothelioma among brake mechanics
and four brake mechanics in the control population. The authors, therefore, calculated a relative
risk of only .65, demonstrating a decreased risk of disease. Teta et al, Mesothelioma in
Connecticut, 1955-1977, Journal of Occupational Medicine, 25(10): 749-755 (1983). The small
number of cases involving automobile service workers, however, must temper the interpretation
of this study. While the calculated relative risk was low, the confidence interval, the range of
values within which the results of a study sample would be likely to fall if the study were
repeated numerous times, ranged from .08 to 5.53. In other words, if this study were repeated,
95% of the time, the risk of harm would fall somewhere between negligible and 500% greater
than the general population.
In Germany in 1994, researchers found 16 cases of mesothelioma in car mechanics but also
found 16 mechanics in their hospital controls and 12 in their population controls. Woitowitz and
Rodelsperger, Mesothelioma among car mechanics?, Annals of Occupational Hygiene, 38(4):
635-638 (1994). The results of the German study are confounded by their decision to use lung
cancer patients as the control group. It is a well-accepted epidemiological procedure not to use a
population with potential exposure to the substance being studied as your control population as
this will skew your results towards finding no increased risk of the disease. See Spirtas,
Malignant mesothelioma: attributable risk of asbestos exposure, Occup. and Environ. med.
51:804, 805 (1994). Because of the strong association between asbestos exposure and lung
cancer, it is probable that some of the German control group may have had previous occupational
exposures to asbestos.
There are two other studies that did not find a relationship between friction product exposure and
mesothelioma, Teschke, et al., Mesothelioma Surveillance to Locate Sources of Exposure to
Asbestos, Canadian Journal of Public Health, May-June 1997, 163-168 (Odds Ratio – Brake
lining installation or repair – .3 with a 95% CI of 0-1.4) and Agudo, et al., Occupation and Risk
of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: A Case-Control Study in Spain, American Journal of
Industrial Medicine, 37:159-168 (2000)(3 mesotheliomas in motor vehicle mechanics, 14 in
An attorney prosecuting a friction products case should also be aware that in 2001, Otto Wong, a
long time expert witness for the friction products industry, published his meta-analysis of the
various epidemiologic studies involving brake workers. See Malignant Mesothelioma and
Asbestos Exposure among Auto Mechanics: Appraisal of the Scientific Evidence, Regulatory
Toxicology and Pharmacology, 34: 170-177 (2001). Not surprisingly, given his ideological bend,
he found a summary risk of .9 with a 95% CI of .66-1.23.
In defending some of the friction product cases, defense experts will also cite to proportionate
morality studies like Coggon, et. al, Differences in occupational mortality from pleural cancer,
peritoneal cancer, and asbestosis, Occupational Environmental Medicine, 52:775-777
(1995)(motor mechanics PMR 46, 12 deaths from pleural cancer; PMR 88, three deaths from
peritoneal cancer; PMR 80, two deaths from asbestosis) and Hodgson, Mesothelioma Mortality
in Britain: Patterns by Birth Cohort and Occupation, Annals of Occupational Hygiene, 41(1):
129-133 (1997)(car mechanics placed in Group C, the lowest risk group with a group PMR
Proportionate morality studies, however, are not comparing exposed occupational groups to a
group that has not been exposed to the substance in question. Instead, proportionate morality
studies simply compare the number of deaths in one occupation with the number of deaths
overall, including many individuals that have had occupational exposure to asbestos. In a recent
study, the author emphasized that:
[i]t should be noted that a PMR of 1 does not represent the “background” risk level for
mesothelioma (i.e. the level that would be expected in the absence of all asbestos exposure). A
hypothetical group of men with zero exposure to asbestos would record a PMR of about .07. At
the same time it must be remembered that a male PMR of (say) 0.35 does not necessarily
represent a five times background risk arising in that occupation, since the relevant occupation
may not be the last one held.
Mesothelioma Occupation Statistics: For male deaths aged 16-84 in England and Wales, 1979-
1995 (excluding 1981), Epidemiology and Medical Statistics Unit, Health and Safety Executive
Corporate knowledge of the risks of exposure to asbestos can be demonstrated through a variety
of different avenues. First, various trade organizations have had access to the historical medical
and scientific literature on asbestos disease as the articles were published. The most significant
of these organizations was the Industrial Hygiene Foundation (“IHF”) was established in 1935 to
promulgate “authoritative and approved standards for the control of industrial dusts which, if
complied with by industries, or by industrial companies, will act as a defense against personal
injury suits.” See Roger Hitchens, Chairman, Report of Temporary Organization Committee,
(February 5, 1935). One of the services offered by the IHF was an abstracting service that
reviewed over 300 medical and scientific publications each month and summarized any articles
regarding hazardous substances used in industry.
These abstracts were contained within a monthly publication entitled the Industrial Hygiene
Digest that was available to all members of the IHF. Between 1937 and 1963 over 30,000
abstracts were compiled. Virtually every important article concerning the health hazards of
asbestos was abstracted in the Industrial Hygiene Digest within months of their publication
including articles published in other countries. For example, as noted in the previous section,
Brachmann reported on the incidence of asbestosis of Grinders and Drillers of Brake Bands in
1940. The article was written in German and published in the German periodical Arbeitsschutz.
Nevertheless, in the April 1941 Industrial Hygiene Digest, a abstract of that article in the English
Ford joined the IHF in January of 1947 and remained a member until 1974. GM has been a
member since 1942. Chrysler admits in discovery responses that it was a member of the IHF but
will not disclose the dates of membership.
Another source for proving corporate knowledge is discovery regarding the types of publications
kept in the corporation’s library. For example, Chrysler maintained a 1943 Manual of Industrial
Hygiene that contains a description of asbestosis. There is also a textbook in the Chrysler library
from 1954 that reports on the excessive incidence of pulmonary cancer among workers in the
asbestos industry and a 1957 toxicology textbook that references Dr. Richard Doll’s 1955 lung
cancer study and its conclusion that lung cancer is a specific hazard of asbestos workers. In
addition, the Chrysler library contained a 1958 publication, Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology,
edited by Frank Patty, an industrial hygienist associated with GM, that contain a chapter on
pulmonary dust diseases, including asbestosis.
Additional evidence that bears on the issue of notice of the hazards of asbestos is a 1950
Newsweek magazine that contains advertisements for Chrysler, Ford and General Motors. In that
magazine, Dr. W.C. Heuper of the National Cancer Institute is quoted for his statement that
airborne asbestos particles are one of the probable causes of increased lung and respiratory tract
In addition to information obtained from outside sources, there is also considerable evidence
within the corporate files of these companies that demonstrate they knew of the hazards of
exposure to asbestos. The most infamous of this type of evidence is contained with the files of
Bendix. On September 12, 1966, the Director of Purchases for the Bendix, E. A. Martin wrote to
Noel Hendry at Canadian Johns-Manville enclosing a copy of an article that appeared in
Chemical Week regarding a legislative attempt to limit the use of asbestos because of growing
concerns regarding health hazards. In closing, Martin wrote, “My answer to the problem is: if
you have enjoyed a good life while working with asbestos products why not die from it. There’s
got to be some cause.”
In 1976, Bendix recruited one of its staff, Jacob Tawiah to prepare an executive summary of the
known effects of asbestos. While of limited utility to prove notice given its late date of creation,
certain statements within the document contradict defenses raised by their attorneys in litigation.
For example, Tawiah writes, “All commercial forms of asbestos cause asbestosis, bronchogenic
cancer and mesothelioma.
Still another source of evidence relating particularly to those companies that manufactured
friction products is the warnings that they received from their suppliers. Beginning in 1969,
suppliers of asbestos fiber like Lake Asbestos, The Ruberiod Company, Carey Canada, and
Johns-Manville all placed caution labels on the bags of asbestos stating that ‘persons exposed to
this material should wear adequate protective devices as inhalation of this material over long
periods may be harmful.
Despite all of the evidence about knowledge, Bendix allegedly first placed cautionary language
on its packages of friction products allegedly in late 1973, GM first placed cautionary language
on its packages of friction products in 1975, Ford in 1980 and Chrysler in 1983. The words
“warning” and “cancer” did not appear in any cautionary statements until the late 1980s.
Defendant AlliedSignal, Inc.’s and Chrysler’s Responses to Plaintiff’s First Set of Interrogatories,
King v. Allied-Signal, At Law No. 24242-W01, Circuit Court for the City of Newport News,
Virginia, 12/4/87 (Bendix first received knowledge of a claim against it for an alleged asbestos
related condition on November 12, 1975, Chrysler in 1978)
The Mealey’s referenced is the Mealey’s Litigation Reporter: Asbestos
Ironically, Elmer Ambrose Sperry of Cleveland, Ohio invented the spot-type disc brake in 1898.
He made a large disc integral with the hub on each wheel and used electromagnets to press
smaller discs, lined with a friction material, against spots on the rotating disc to bring the wheel
to a stop.
The use of asbestos as a pad material in disc brakes dates back to 1907 when Herbert Frood, an
Englishman. He came up with idea to use asbestos because the linings eliminated the noise of
metal-to-metal contact and also outlasted other friction materials by a wide margin. Car
manufacturers quickly adopted the new material for both drum and disc brakes.
In 1997, Chrysler answered interrogatories revealing that it continued to sell a B350 van that
utilized an asbestos brake lining.
After Mr. Froehlich, GM’s expert, provided his candid opinion that work with asbestos friction
products produces significant asbestos exposure, GM sought vehemently to suppress his
testimony and keep it secret. GM sought a court order to prevent the dissemination of this candid
testimony that indicted friction products as causing significant asbestos exposure. See Entry
Enforcing Agreed Protective Order, in Terry v. Conrad, In the Court of Common Pleas,
Montgomery County, Ohio, Civ. Div., Case No. 98-893.
While some animal studies showed fosterite to be acutely toxic, there are no studies implicating
fosterite as a cause of mesothelioma. See Jagatic, et al., Tissue response to intraperitoneal
asbestos with preliminary report of acute toxicity of heat treated asbestos in mice, 1 Env’l
Research 217-230 (1967)(chrysotile heated to high temperatures and injected killed 60% of the
mice within 48 hours); Davis and Coniam, Experimental Studies on the Effects of Heated
Chrysotile Asbestos and Automobile Brake Lining Dust Injected into the Body Cavities of Mice,
Experimental and Molecular Pathology, 19: 339-353 (1973)(first series of experiments showed
signs of toxic effects but overall fosterite produced very small granulomas and little fibrosis).
Many of the chrysotile fibers that Rohl found were smaller than 1 micron in length. Defendants
frequently assert that OSHA does not regulate fiber emissions where the fibers are below five
microns because such small fibers have of very little, if any, fibergenic and carcinogenic
potential. This contention, however, is contrary to OSHA’s position. The reason that OSHA uses
the 5-micron standard is not because small fibers are not harmful but because OHSA need a
practical method that can be used in the field to provide a relatively cost effective and quick
method for estimating exposure. A simple light microscope can only detect fibers 5 microns or
greater in length. See Langer, et al., Variation of Some Properties of Chrysotile Asbestos, supra,
at [Bates A06116] (“the 5 [micron] fiber was selected as the lower limit for counting, mostly on
a utilitarian basis and not because of biological considerations.” ).
As a point of reference, the current permissible exposure level is 0.1 f/cc
In a continuing effort to influence the medical and scientific literature on the issues involving
exposures to friction products, Ford, Chrysler and GM has financed the efforts of scientists at
Exponent, Inc., a large defendant-oriented research organization, who have submitted for
publication two articles, one involving the “state-of-the-art” and one involving the level of
asbestos exposure in friction repair operations. Not surprisingly, the “state-of-the-art” article will
conclude that the risk of disease to garage mechanics was not known until the mid to late 1970s
and that the car manufacturers acted prudently in response to that knowledge. Currently, three of
the scientists at Exponent have been listed as witnesses for Ford, Chrysler and GM, Dr. Dennis J.
Paustenbach, a certified industrial hygienist and board-certified toxicologist, and Drs. Mary Jane
Teta and Michael Goodman, epidemiologists.
OF A FRICTION PRODUCTS CASE
Jonathan A. Smith-George
Law Office of Jonathan A. Smith-George
10231 Warwick Blvd.
Newport News, VA 23601
Portions of this paper were taken from the Introduction to Science Brief, The Friction About
Friction Product Safety, In Re: Federal-Mogul Global, Inc., et al., Case No. 01-10587, United
States Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware. Mr. Smith-George and Mr. Robert T. Haefele, an
attorney with Motley Rice LLP, authored those portions. While some of the language is
verbatim, it has been incorporated into a completely redrafted format. Mr. Haefele has graciously
granted his permission for the use of his words.
There are those in the legal community that contend that the litigation against the manufacturers
and producers of asbestos-containing friction products is a recent phenomena prompted by the
many bankruptcies of the insulation manufacturers. These parties contend that the “friction
defendants” are peripheral defendants unfairly caught in the web of the asbestos litigation.
Contrary to these assertions, litigation against manufacturers of asbestos friction material has
been ongoing for over 25 years. This is not surprising given that one of the largest importers of
Canadian chrysotile over the last six decades has been the friction product industry.
The results from litigation involving friction product industry has been mixed. In some cases the
plaintiffs were unable to establish the presence of an asbestos-related disease. See Long, et. al. v.
Carlisle Corp., Philadelphia Common Pleas, Mealey’s Vol. 8, No. 5, 4/2/93 at 29 (5 defense
verdicts and 2 plaintiff verdicts totaling $130,000.00 for mechanics and laborers at the Southeast
Pennsylvania Transit Authority); Estate of Richard Amole and Estates of Anna and Cosmo
Tedeschi, Philadelphia Common Pleas, Mealey’s Vol. 8, No. 4, 3/19/93 at 30 (asbestos not a
substantial contributing factor in colon cancer and lung cancer cases of railroad car repairman)
In other cases, the lack of compelling product identification and exposure evidence has resulted
in defense verdicts. See Reyes v. Raybestos-Manhattan, San Francisco County, Mealey’s, Vol.
16, No. 3, 3/9/01 at 7-8 (defense verdict in case involving auto parts counterman who claimed
exposure to friction products during 40 year career); Vaughan v. Brown & Root, County Court at
Law No. 3, Dallas, Texas, Mealey’s, Vol. 15, No. 13, 8/4/00, at 6 (directed verdict in favor of
brake lining defendants at end of plaintiff’s case in chief based on plaintiff’s failure to meet the
proximity, frequency and regularly test of exposure under Indiana law); Mitchell v. Raybestos-
Manhattan, Mealey’s, Vol. 15, No. 3, 3/3/00 at 4-5, (jury’s finding that John Deere brake
products were 1.5% responsible for $5.9 million verdict vacated by court because plaintiff did
present “substantial evidence of exposure to John Deere parts”); Wood v. Ford Motor Co., 703
A.2d 1315 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1998)(Maryland Court of Appeals reversed a jury award of $6.3
million on the ground that the evidence “simply was too thin “to demonstrate the decedent was
sufficiently exposed to Ford products).
In still other cases, the friction defendants successfully convinced the jury that the decedent’s
disease was caused by exposure to asbestos in other occupations. See Lansford v. Able Supply
Co., Shelby County, Texas, 10/12/02 (3 years in a shipyard and 40 years as a parts manager for a
Chrysler dealership); King v. AlliedSignal, Inc., Circuit Court for City of Newport News,
Mealey’s, Vol. 16, No. 2, 2/23/01, at 15 (jury apparently swayed that 20 months exposure at the
local shipyard caused the mesothelioma despite 20 years as a garage mechanic); Chavers v.
Owens-Illinois, Inc., San Francisco County, Mealey’s, Vol. 15, No. 8, 3/23/00 ($4.6 million
verdict against insulation manufacturer but defense verdict against brake defendant); Estate of
Robert Sables v. Allied Signal, St. Lucie County, Fla., 19th Jud. Ct., Mealey’s Vol. 8, No. 6,
4/16/93 (defense verdict in mesothelioma case of 57 year old service manager of several tire
stores who claimed 14 years of exposure to friction products but also worked as a truck driver
hauling Transite pipe made of crocidolite asbestos).
There have been, however, significant plaintiff verdicts against various friction product
manufacturers, the most recent of which was a New York jury finding that Honeywell, the parent
of the company that made Bendix brakes, was responsible for 45.75% of a $53 million dollar
award for the widow of a man who worked both in auto repair garages and in shipyards. Brown
v. ACand S, Mealey’s, Vol. 17, No. 2, 2/15/02, at 3. See also Stricklande v. Kellogg Brown &
Root, Mealey’s, Vol.17, No. 6, 6/21/02 at 13 (General Motors, Ford and Bendix found 21%
responsible for $158,200 verdict to a brake mechanic with asbestosis); Horton v. AlliedSignal,
Ohio Trial Reporter, Vol. 15, No. 9, 2/23/01, at 6 ($1.8 settlement from Ford, Chrysler, General
Motors, Abex and Bendix for a former garage mechanic who developed mesothelioma); Berning
v. AP Green Industries, Inc. San Francisco Sup. Ct., Vol. 17, No. 1, 2/1/02, at 14 ($1.2 million
verdict against Bendix for a plaintiff who contracted mesothelioma from repairing brakes on his
own family’s vehicles); Marion v. Nationwide Brake and Alignment Centers, Cuyahoga County
Common Pleas, Ohio, 2/29/00 (default judgment of $4.45 million in case of 51 year old
mesothelioma brake installer in case that had settled with 12 automobile and brake
manufacturers for $1.3 million); Ford Motor Co. v. Wood, 703 A.2d 1315 (Md. Ct. Spec. App.
1998)(the $8.06 million verdict for the mesothelioma wrongful death of garage mechanic Grewe,
a co-plaintiff of Ford, was affirmed on appeal); Brown v. Borg-Warner Corp., Mealey’s, Vol. 13,
No. 5 ($1 million verdict for a plaintiff with asbestosis who worked with Borg-Warner’s
asbestos-containing clutch facings).
The purpose of this paper is to discuss the issues faced by a plaintiff’s lawyer in preparing to
prosecute a friction products claim.
2. FRICTION PRODUCT TYPES:
The first step in evaluating a friction products case is to investigate the types of brake and clutch
products to which the plaintiff was exposed. Detailed below is a quick overview of the different
types of friction products that someone working on automobiles may encounter.
With regards to brakes, there are two main types used on passenger cars and light trucks, drum
brakes and disc brakes.
Drum brakes consist of curved brake shoes that rest within a rotating iron cylinder, or drum,
which is connected to the axle and the wheel. When drum brakes are applied, hydraulic pressure
from the master cylinder pushes a pair of pistons in the drum against the brake shoes. The shoes
then press against the wall of the drum, slowing the wheel. When the brakes are released, springs
pull the shoes back away from the drum. The drum brake system contained two brake shoes per
wheel, a primary and a secondary.
Up until the 1960s, the friction lining was riveted to the brake shoes, necessitating the drilling of
holes into the lining. During the 1960s, processes were developed to bind the lining directly to
the shoe without resort to rivets.
While the drum brake was the essentially the only type of braking system used on United States
automobiles from the 1930s until the late 1960s, disk brakes became more or less standard on
European cars during the 1950s. Disk brakes have greater stopping power than drum brakes and
are usually installed on the front wheels to improve braking during sudden stops. Disk brakes
consist of a metal disc or rotor that is connected to the wheel. A device called a caliper rests on
the edge of the rotor and holds two friction pads on either side of the rotor. Applying the brakes
causes fluid to push a piston within the caliper, which pinches the brake pads against the rotor
and slows the wheel. This process is similar to a bicycle brake where two rubber pads rub against
the wheel rim creating friction.
Disk brakes were first adopted by American manufacturers beginning in the late 1960s but were
only used on the front of the car. It was not until the early 1980s that American manufacturers
introduced all wheel disc brakes.
Both drum and disk brakes are subject to considerable heating during the braking process. In
either case, the friction surfaces of the shoes on a drum brake or the pads on a disk brake system
convert the forward motion of the vehicle into heat. Heat is what causes the friction surfaces
(linings) of the pads and shoes to eventually wear out and require replacement. Accordingly the
brake linings in drum brakes and the brake pads in disk brakes were originally made of asbestos,
a heat-resistant material. These friction products contained between 25 to 75% chrysotile
asbestos. Beginning in the late 1980s, original equipment manufacturers began replacing the
asbestos brake linings with semi-metallic linings and other non-asbestos compositions in new
cars. Some models of certain manufacturers, however, contained asbestos linings into the late
1990s. Some replacement brake linings made by parts manufacturers still contain asbestos.
In addition to the brakes, asbestos was used in the friction lining of the clutch disc. The clutch
disc is basically a steel plate, covered with a frictional material that goes between the flywheel
and the pressure plate. In the center of the disc is the hub, which is designed to fit over the spines
of the input shaft of the transmission. When the clutch is engaged, the disc is “squeezed”
between the flywheel and pressure plate, and power from the engine is transmitted by the disc’s
hub to the input shaft of the transmission. The friction material on a clutch disc is very similar to
the friction material on the pads of a disc brake, or the shoes of a drum brake– after a while, it
wears away. When most or all of the friction material is gone, the clutch will start to slip, and
eventually it won’t transmit any power from the engine to the wheels.
In a manual transmission, the clutch disc and its lining are housed between the engine and the
transmission. Debris from the wearing of the clutch can collect in this housing.
An automatic transmission, on the other hand, has a “wet” clutch system where the clutch facings
are immersed in oil. Chrysotile, crocidolite and Anthophyllite asbestos were used in the
manufacture of automatic transmission clutch plate facings.
In addition to these products, there are other components of an automobile that contain asbestos.
An automatic transmission also has a rigid asbestos band around it containing between 10 and
50% chrysotile and many of the heat resistant gaskets and seals in the engine contain asbestos.
Most of the asbestos friction product litigation, however, has centered on brakes and clutch
Another car part that contained asbestos is the muffler, althought it is difficult to conceive a
mechanic having any significant exposure to asbestos from inside a muffler:
3. MANUFACTURERS & DISTRIBUTORS
With a basic understanding of the different types of friction products involved in the case, the
next crucial step is to identify the manufacturer and/or distributor of the product. Most of the
product identification will be based upon the information that the plaintiff or his co-workers
recall from the cartons of aftermarket friction products that were installed during the repair of the
brakes or transmission. The names on the boxes, however, do not always indicate the
manufacturer of the product. Each of the Big Three automobile makers relied, to some extent, on
other manufacturers to market their aftermarket brakes. As for the original equipment that was
incorporated into the new vehicles that were sold, General Motors manufacturer most of its
original equipment brakes, Chrysler manufactured some of its original equipment and Ford
Motor company bought all of its friction products from other sources. Listed below are excerpts
for Interrogatories of the Big Three automakers as well as a few of their major suppliers. In
reviewing this information, it is important to note that five significant suppliers of asbestos
friction materials are in bankruptcy proceedings, Raybestos and its predecessor Raybestos-
Manhattan; Johns-Manville Corporation; H.K. Porter and its Thermoid Division, Gatke
Corporation and Federal Mogul and its subsidiaries Wagner Electric, Ferodo and Nuturn
GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION was incorporated in the state of Delaware in 1916.
General Motors manufactured asbestos drum brake linings at its Inland Division plant in Dayton,
Ohio (1939-64) and Vandalia, Ohio (1962 to present) and asbestos disc brake linings at its Delco
Moraine Division in Dayton, Ohio (1966-1985). The drum brake linings contained 50 to 75%
chrysotile asbestos and were sold under the trade names of “Inlite” or “Delco.” GM stopped
selling drum brake linings in 1979 but continued to incorporate them in new cars. The disc brake
linings contained 30 to 60% chrysotile asbestos and were sold under the trade name “Delco.”