Asbestos in aircraft can be found in several aircraft components. Including engine and electrical insulation, asbestos blankets, brakes, cockpit heating system, heat shields for engines, torque valves, gaskets, electrical wiring and insulation in the cargo bays.
Asbestos content can be relatively high in the brakes, ranging from 16 to 23% by weight in some types. This suggests that people employed in aircraft maintenance-repair work, including brake replacement, might be at risk for asbestos disease.
The national asbestos monitoring body in Italy has been studying the use of the mineral in the aviation industry for years. Some expert reports prepared in 2005 on the engines of MD80 aircraft in the Alitalia fleet showed that, at least until mid‑2005, and, therefore, more than 10 years after the law that prohibited it, asbestos continued to be used in the aircraft and hangars of the major airports managed by Atitech, the company now faced with hundreds of lawsuits brought before as many Italian courts by ex-pilots, cabin crew and ground staff. At present, nine MD80 aircraft belonging to Alitalia stand abandoned on one of the maintenance aprons at Ciampino Airport near Rome. These giants had to be partially dismantled for potential sale or scrapping.
During the dismantling phase, technicians found such quantities of asbestos in the furnishings and in some of the mechanical and structural components on board the aeroplanes, as to require a halt to operations to await reclamation, in accordance with the law, in order to proceed with the safe removal of the asbestos components and complete disposal in landfill as hazardous, toxic waste. A great many visibly damaged mechanical parts and on-board furnishings can be seen on the abandoned MD80s, exposed to the air. The dust therefore risks being dispersed across the aprons and runways used by airport staff and passengers.
New aircraft manufactured after asbestos bans do not contain asbestos, allthough older aircraft still do.
Some new aircraft manufactured in nations where asbestos is still legal to use, might contain asbestos.
Exposure can occure when mechanics, crew or passengers accidently disturb any asbestos-containing material.
“Use of asbestos in aviation and reclamation of old vehicles”
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