Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Public Health

Major Professor

Raymond D. Harbison, Ph.D.


Occupational risk analysis, Vehicles, Friction materials, Seam sealant, Gaskets


The historic use of asbestos-containing materials during the manufacturing of automobiles has resulted in a perception of an increased risk of asbestos-related pulmonary diseases within mechanics. This study was conducted to assess the potential asbestos exposures mechanics encounter while servicing vehicles assembled with parts containing asbestos, in addition to compare the cumulative lifetime asbestos exposures for different maintenance activities against theorical threshold exposures for asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Exposure data were assembled from four independent exposure assessments performed to elucidate the airborne asbestos levels generated during the removal and replacement of brakes, gaskets, clutches and seam sealants containing asbestos. The phase contrast microscopy (PCM) and phase contrast microscopy equivalent (PCME) fiber concentrations for personal samples and air sampled identified to contain asbestos fibers through Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) analysis were applied to calculate the cumulative lifetime asbestos exposures.

This index of exposure was compared to no-effect exposure thresholds identified through an extensive literature review for the selected pulmonary diseases. The results of this study indicate that mechanics encounter PCM fiber concentrations approximately 10 to 100 times lower than the current Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) Permissible Limit Exposure (PEL) of 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter (f/cc). Additionally, the cumulative lifetime asbestos exposures ranged from <1 fiber-year/cubic centimeter of air (f-yr/cc) to 2.0 f-yr/cc, and did not exceed the no-effect exposure thresholds for asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The findings of this study provide additional support to previously published epidemiologic investigations and exposure assessments against an increased risk of asbestos-related disease within mechanics historically employed to service vehicles containing asbestos fibers.