Objective: To reanalyse data on the lung content of asbestos fibres among brake mechanics.
Methods: I re-analysed data published by Butnor, Roggli and colleagues on the lung content of chrysotile and tremolite asbestos fibres among brake mechanics and controls. Statistics of the distributions were estimated by maximum likelihood to accommodate observations below the detection limit. Mean concentrations were compared by the t-test, bootstrap resampling and interval-censored survival methods.
Results: The mean concentrations of fibres were higher among the brake workers than the controls. The concentration of tremolite fibres was higher than the concentration of chrysotile, a pattern similar to that observed among Quebec chrysotile miners and millers.
Conclusions: Re-analysis of published data does not support the interpretation that, in automotive brake repair workers with malignant mesothelioma, asbestos content is within the normal range. The alternative interpretation that brake mechanics have a greater than background burden of asbestos fibres, attributable to occupational exposure to dusts from friction products manufactured from Canadian chrysotile, appears more credible. This asbestos burden might be associated with an increased risk of asbestos-associated cancers.