I just read an interesting article from CBC news in Canada. Apparently, brake pads containing asbestos a material known to car lung cancer (mesothelioma) can still be purchased and the label doesn’t necessarily tell you that asbestos was added to the pad. Being that Canada is a close neighbor and cars are frequently driven from country to country this puts both backyard and professional mechanics in the US at risk also.

The article “Asbestos brake pad ban proposed” points out that while it is illegal to manufacture brake pads containing asbestos in Ontario it is not illegal to sell them. Pads are often imported from other countries with no labeling and are installed.

Even if you are being sure that you are only purchasing pad without the hazardous material (asbestos is a class-A carcinogen), that doesn’t mean the last person who changed the brakes showed the same consideration and the problem is with removing the old pads not installing the new ones.

All asbestos would be sealed in the new pads, but as a pad wears down the asbestos is released. While cleaning the drum the mechanic is exposed to asbestos dust. Even if he is wearing a mask, the dust is on his clothes and skin. This puts everyone around him at risk also, including who ever cleans his clothing.

This also put mechanics in the US at a continual risk. On any car that it is serviced there is no way of knowing for sure where the last pads were purchased or installed. Even if Canada does put a ban on all asbestos containing pads the risk will remain for many years as the pads slowly wear down and need to be replaced.