Asbestos exposure among transmission mechanics in automotive repair shops

Natalia Salazar, María Fernanda Cely-García, Patrick N. Breysse, Juan Pablo Ramos-Bonilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objectives: Asbestos has been used in a broad variety of industrial products, including clutch discs of the transmission system of vehicles. Studies conducted in high-income countries that have analyzed personal asbestos exposures of transmission mechanics have concluded that these workers are exposed to asbestos concentrations in compliance with the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (US OSHA) occupational standards. Clutch facings are the friction component of clutch discs. If clutch facings are sold separated from the support, they require manipulation before installation in the vehicle. The manipulation of asbestos containing clutch facings is performed by a group of mechanics known as riveters, and includes drilling, countersinking, riveting, sanding, and occasionally grinding, tasks that can potentially release asbestos fibers, exposing the mechanics. These manipulation activities are not reported in studies conducted in high-income countries. This study analyzes personal asbestos exposures of transmission mechanics that manipulate clutch facings. Methods: Air sampling campaigns in two transmission repair shops (TRS) were conducted in November 2012 and July 2013 in Bogotá, Colombia. Four workers employed in these TRS were sampled (i.e. three riveters and one supervisor). Personal samples (n = 39), short-term personal samples (n = 49), area samples (n = 52), blank samples (n = 8), and background samples (n = 2) were collected in both TRS during 3-5 consecutive days, following US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (US NIOSH) methods 7400 and 7402. Asbestos samples were analyzed by an American Industrial Hygiene Association accredited laboratory. Results: On at least one of the days sampled, all riveters were exposed to asbestos concentrations that exceeded the US OSHA permissible exposure limit or the Colombian permissible limit value. Additionally, from the forty-seven 30-min short-term personal samples collected, two (4.3%) exceeded the US OSHA excursion limit of 1 f cm-3. Conclusions: In this study, we identified that the working conditions and use of asbestos containing transmission products expose transmission mechanics to asbestos concentrations that exceed both the Colombian and OSHA standards. The potential consequences for the health of these workers are of great concern.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-306
Number of pages15
JournalAnnals of Occupational Hygiene
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Asbestos
  • Chrysotile
  • Clutch disc
  • Colombia
  • Exposure assessment
  • Transmission mechanics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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