Personal exposure to asbestos and respiratory health of heavy vehicle brake mechanics

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Abstract

Asbestos brake linings and blocks are currently used in heavy vehicle brake repair shops (BRSs) in Bogotá, Colombia. Some brake products are sold detached from their supports and without holes, requiring manipulation before installation. The aim of this study was to assess asbestos exposures and conduct a preliminary evaluation of respiratory health in workers of heavy vehicles in BRSs. To estimate asbestos exposures, personal and area samples were collected in two heavy vehicle BRSs. Each shop was sampled during six consecutive days for the entire work shift. Personal samples were collected on 10 workers including riveters, brake mechanics, and administrative staff. Among workers sampled, riveters had the highest phase contrast microscopy equivalent (PCME) asbestos concentrations, with 8-h time-weighted average (TWA) personal exposures ranging between 0.003 and 0.157 f/cm3. Respiratory health evaluations were performed on the 10 workers sampled. Three workers (30%) had circumscribed pleural thickening (pleural plaques), with calcifications in two of them. This finding is strongly suggestive of asbestos exposure. The results of this study provide preliminary evidence that workers in heavy vehicle BRSs could be at excessive risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.

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