Asbestos has been in the news so much in recent years and we all know that it’s a dangerous substance that can cause serious health problems leading to disability and death. However, as mentioned in a previous blog post, asbestos is not a modern substance; it’s been around seemingly throughout history.
Asbestos has had some really unusual applications and we’re taking a look today at some of the more surprising uses for asbestos that you may not have heard about.
1 LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION
Believe it or not asbestos has starred in many a Hollywood blockbuster! The artificial snow used in the film industry was made up of chrysotile (white) asbestos. Starring under trade names such as ‘Snow Drift’, Artificial Snow’, ‘White Magic Snow’ and ‘Christmas Snow’, the substance was sprinkled on Christmas trees and other props and scenery in order to provide a fresh fallen snow scene! This was used by the ton in some of the most famous movies of the twenties, thirties and forties, including ‘Holiday Inn’, starring Bing Crosby and featuring the famous ‘White Christmas’ song and the ‘Wizard of Oz’ where it was used in the Poppy Field scene.
2 DOCTOR, DOCTOR
Surgeons used asbestos thread to close wounds due to its flexibility and high tensile strength. Following World War II, it was common for heart and lung surgery patients to have their incisions closed with this asbestos thread. This practice now seems particularly ironic since asbestos has now been proved to cause so many health problems, particularly in the lungs.
3 BRIGHTENING UP SMILES
After the end of the Second World War, a particular brand of toothpaste contained asbestos fibres as an abrasive material that was believed to make teeth appear whiter. Ipana toothpaste was a product offered by Bristol-Meyers and became a popular choice in the fifties with its wintergreen flavouring. The brand featured in the classic film ‘Paper Moon’ when Ryan O’Neil’s character was seen buying a tube. The jingle for the product was sung by a character in the 1978 film Grease and the toothpaste’s mascot was a Disney created character by the name of Bucky Beaver.
4 CUT AND DRIED
Hair salons in the fifties and sixties all boasted giant hood style hairdryers which ladies would sit under to have their hair dried. Today, we’re more used to the blow-dry done with a hand held hair dryer. However, the perms and bouffant beehive styles of the era worked better if the hair was dried in place and then teased by a stylist afterwards. These huge hoods contained a layer of asbestos as a safety feature to prevent the client from getting burned by the hot air.
5 BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Talcum powder, which is readily available and widely used the world over, is processed in such a manner as to produce asbestos-like particles. There have been several cases of infants accidentally inhaling baby powder and suffering illness and, in some cases, death. Talc has also long been a traditional component in cosmetics which means that many women would be risking their health when applying makeup. Since the discovery and identification of the risks involved in using talc, most manufacturers have been using safer substitutes. However, it’s still essential to check to ensure that cheap or imported cosmetic products do not contain talc.