Asbestos found in counterfeit brake pads

Find out more about our asbestos training.

Asbestos has been found in fake Toyota brake pads in Australia. Local buyers have been unaware the products were counterfeit, and because there is no manufacturer aligned with the items, the Australian authorities have not been able to issue a recall.

Historically, asbestos was a common material used in brake pads and other car parts until its ban in Australia in 2004. Around 500,000 Australian vehicles are thought to be affected, but because the brake pads were sold online, it is proving impossible to track down the owners.

No consideration for public health

The public health issue resulting from these sales is indisputable. It’s a long-term problem that affects the public at large, as each time the affected brakes are used, asbestos dust will be released into the atmosphere.

A significantly reduced price for these parts resulted in the high volume of sales achieved by the conmen. Unsuspecting traders and consumers will have taken advantage of a ‘bargain,’ falling victim to unscrupulous dealers with no consideration for public health.

A warning for mechanics

Toyota Australia has reportedly warned their mechanics to take extra care when dealing with vehicles serviced by independent garages, whose workers would have been unaware of the dangers to health and safety they were facing.

Photos showing the differences between the genuine and fake brake pads were also issued to Toyota mechanics. Customers have been informed that if their vehicle has only been serviced by a main dealer, it will not have had the fake brake pads fitted, offering some reassurance about their safety.

But the fact remains that with around half a million vehicles on the Australian roads fitted with the counterfeit pads, the public health issue as a whole is significant.

Second asbestos issue in three years

In 2012, asbestos was discovered inside the engines of some Australian cars, resulting in the recall of 21,000 vehicles. There is concern that the country is not monitoring its imports sufficiently to protect public health after counterfeit air bag parts were also brought in.

A spokesperson for the National Roads and Motorists Association, Peter Khoury, expressed his concerns about the issue,

“Now more than ever we need to make sure we have the necessary laws and measures in place to ensure that what comes to this country is safe and suitable for our roads.”

Mechanics at increased risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related disease

Mechanics were at particular risk of asbestos exposure in the past due to its common use within various automotive parts. The way in which brake pads were cleaned – using an air hose prior to fitting – meant that asbestos dust was released into the entire workshop.

Calls for thorough checks and greater control on imported car parts have been made, but it has also been acknowledged that asbestos can be hard to identify. In the past, it was widely used in brake linings, gaskets and clutches, and is the reason why so many mechanics in Australia have suffered asbestos-related illness decades after exposure.