Breathing in air containing asbestos fibres can lead to asbestos-related diseases, mainly cancers of the lungs and chest lining. Cases of asbestos-related cancer have been reported in garage workers, although the risk is relatively low.

In motor vehicles

In the past, asbestos was used in motor vehicles as the friction material in clutches, automatic transmission and brake linings, and in gaskets. The use of asbestos in these components was prohibited from 1999, with the exception that pre 1973 vehicles could continue to be fitted with asbestos containing brake shoes until 2004. Therefore, it is possible that some older and 'classic' vehicles could still contain these asbestos containing products. The supply, possession for supply and fitting of asbestos products to motor vehicle, trailers etc is now banned. Care should be taken when removing an existing component that you suspect may contain asbestos (which must be replaced by one which is asbestos-free).

Remember that all brake and clutch dust is potentially harmful, so it is prudent in all cases to

  • never blow dust out of brake drums or clutch housings with an airline
  • use properly designed drum cleaning equipment which prevents dust escaping; or
  • use clean, wet rags to clean drums or housings

Any component which is suspected to contain asbestos including the rags used to clean the drums or housings should be disposed of as 'asbestos waste'. Follow the guidance in HSE's guidance sheet for the disposal of asbestos Disposal of asbestos waste.

In Buildings

It is now illegal to use asbestos in the construction or refurbishment of premises. There is still much of this material in place. People who own, manage or have responsibilities for premises which may contain asbestos will either have a legal duty to manage the risk from the material, or a duty to co-operate with whoever manages that risk.

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Updated 2023-12-04