Clouds of Black Dust
"I started working in the vehicle maintenance facility around 1980," Philip said. "It wasn't until the mid or late 80s that there was widespread awareness of asbestos and the diseases like asbestos mesothelioma. So up until that time we would remove the brakes from the trucks with our bare hands. We would remove the brake drums and linings and there would usually be a big handful of black dust. It would fill my palm. No one told us anything, so we just dumped the dust on the floor.
After I got all 4 brake drums off I would take an air hose and blow off all the dust from the parts and components. That created a big cloud of black dust that went right through the shop. I can remember getting a mouthful of dust and just coughing and hacking.
And I supplied my own clothing, which I took home and washed, with my children's clothes and diapers.
We had 400 postal vehicles in the state of Maine, and each vehicle had to be serviced twice a year. The trucks would get new brakes every 6 months. We would be doing a brake job a day. Those vehicles are stopping and starting all day long.
You know hindsight really is 20/20. My first day down in the shop I worked on the jeep. I did a brake job, and my hands were covered in black dust. A mechanic came over with an air hose and just blew off the dust for me. That's how I learned what to do."
Philip said that when the Post Office realised the dangers and health risks associated with asbestos they switched to brakes with semi metallic components. And they issued the vehicle technicians with respirator masks and rubber gloves. They were shown films about asbestos and given some education materials. "I do have to say that once the hazard was known, the Post Office got on the bandwagon and did what they could," he said. "But the damage, if there was damage, was already done.
One of the guys I worked with told me recently that he is not feeling well. He told me I should become informed about asbestos mesothelioma. So I went on the Internet and did some reading."
READ MORE ASBESTOS MESOTHELIOMA LEGAL NEWS
People who work around cars, changing brake pads and shoes are at high risk for exposure to asbestos because it's still in use today, despite the known dangers. In fact, asbestos is still used in roofing materials, textiles, friction products, insulation, and other building materials. Some estimates suggest that as many as 27 million workers were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1980, but there are no estimates of how many people may be at risk today. And given the latency period of the disease, it could take a quarter century before the significance of the problem becomes evident in today's generations.