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Lung diseases

Refractory Ceramic Fiber?

04/29/2010

Question:

I replaced ceramic brakes on my car about 6 months ago and was just warned that the dust could be carcinogenic. I was working on it for about 1-2hours, I didn`t see a lot of dust created, I may have blown the dust out of the garage with an air compressor a few days later (1/2 hour or so)...is this something I should have concern over? I think the fiber I read about on the web for ceramic pads is potassium titanate. I didn`t and still don`t have any symptoms.

Thanks for your help.

Answer:

Potassium titanate is a mineral fiber similar to asbestos and has been used in similar applications (for example as a friction-inducing agent in brake linings). I have not been able to find much in the way of human studies, but a few animal studies I saw showed an increase in lung stiffness after long-term exposure (24 months). The studies did not find evidence of cancers, such as mesotheliomas. 

As I tell most people who have had a short-term exposure like this, the biggest risk is to workers who work with these materials over many years in large amounts. I really don't think you have anything to worry about, but if you do dusty work in the future, you might consider purchasing NIOSH-approved respiratory protection from an industrial safety business that matches the dust you will be encountering. Another strategy is to wet down the dust and vacuum with a wet/dry shop vac. 

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Response by:

J Mac Crawford, PhD, RN J Mac Crawford, PhD, RN
Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences
College of Public Health
The Ohio State University