Ford’s asbestos-laden clutch, brake, and gasket were implicated in many cases of mesothelioma and pulmonary disease diagnosed between the early 1900s and the mid-1980s. These Ford parts were produced through the 1990s and on the market until 2001 when most new vehicles manufactured after the mid-1980s did not contain asbestos-based parts.
Harmful Products and Health Consequences
Asbestos lining used in Ford’s brake and clutch product lines was made out of a high volume of toxic fibers that, once inhaled into the lungs, could lead to asbestos-related disease. Activities such as tearing out and replacing these materials put brake repair workers at high risk.
Many mechanics were exposed for decades while working on Ford automobiles and other types of vehicles that cause cancer. Mechanics with multiple employers had difficulty in pinpointing their exposure. Others who only worked for Ford were more easily able to prove that their exposure risks were solely linked to Ford products.
Surviving family members of Ford mechanics filed legal complaints after their loved one passed away from asbestos-related disease. Because workers were not warned of the health risks they faced on the job, people who filed lawsuits and could prove that injury and death were a direct result of asbestos exposure often received large settlements for millions of dollars.1
According to a report by the Center for Public Integrity in 2016, a Ford memo from 1971 proves that the company was aware that they needed to find an alternative way to line brakes that would not put them at risk for asbestos lawsuits.
While the company had doubts that asbestos dust could cause so many asbestosis cases, they concluded that it would be cheaper to defend any lawsuits that came up rather than spend extra money to manufacture a new product.