Watch Out for Asbestos in Artificial Christmas Snow

Artificial Christmas snow has been around for decades. Dating back to the 19th century, it’s been used in a variety of settings to simulate snow when the real thing was not available. In the beginning, cotton was used to make fake snow, but around 1928, an article written by a firefighter advised people to stop using cotton as it’s flammable, and instead to use asbestos when creating artificial snow. Consequently, asbestos-made snow became popular for many years.

Asbestos Snow Used When Making Movies

Artificial asbestos snow became so popular that it was used in many Hollywood movies. For example, the snow used in The Wizard of Oz, in 1939, was not actual snow, but instead fake snow made from chrysotile asbestos. Chrysotile asbestos is pure white in color, and greatly mimics the look of authentic snow. In 1942, asbestos snow was used again in the movie, Holiday Inn, during the scene in which Bing Crosby sings “White Christmas” while snow fell around him in the last scene. It was slated to be used in the 1946 film, It’s a Wonderful Life, but since the artificial snow interfered with the sound during production, an alternative made of soap, gel, and water was used.

Homes and Stores Get Asbestos Snow

Due to the increasing popularity of artificial snow, manufacturers began making and marketing numerous brands for public use. Some of the more popular brands include “White Christmas,” “Snow Drift,” “White Magic,” and “Pure White.”

In addition, retail stores began using asbestos snow for window displays and scenery. Anyone who visited these stores ran the risk of inhaling tiny asbestos fibers just by merely being in or around the stores that used the fake snow.

Asbestos Snow Sales End, Yet Still Remains in Homes

During World War II, the need for asbestos was extremely high, which in turn stopped a lot of the production of the fake snow. Later on, it was completely banned after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed strict regulations on asbestos use due to its high health risks.

The problem, however, is that in many homes, traditional Christmas ornaments are saved for decades, passed down through generations, and used during the holidays, year after year. Some of these decorations may have been used when asbestos snow was still around, and still pose a threat, even over 30 years later.

In addition, a lot of people tend to store their decorations in their home’s attic. If the home was built prior to the 1980s’, there is a chance that the attic insulation was built with vermiculite, a typed of asbestos that was once widely used in home attics across the world.

Although fake snow was only a seasonal item and didn’t result in prolonged exposure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that there really isn’t any safe level of asbestos. Even a small amount of exposure may result in life-threatening health issues, such as malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis, and asbestos-related lung cancer.

Test Your Christmas Ornaments

If you have older Christmas ornaments that were around when asbestos was used, it’s recommended to have them tested immediately by a certified asbestos inspector. Until then, although it may be a family tradition to use keepsake ornaments during the holidays, it’s best to leave them boxed up until there is certainty that they are asbestos-free.

In addition, if you live in an older home that may contain asbestos insulation, keep away from your attic as much as possible until you can have it inspected. Asbestos fibers pose the greatest risk when they are disturbed. Contact a certified asbestos inspector in your area. Keep in mind that since asbestos fibers are small and odorless, they are undetectable by the human eye.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, there is a chance that you qualify for substantial compensation. There is currently over $30 billion in asbestos trust funds awaiting those who suffer from an asbestos disease. Contact our leading mesothelioma attorneys today for more information and for a free, confidential case evaluation.

Sources:

  1. http://life.time.com/culture/its-a-wonderful-life-rare-photos-from-set-of-a-holiday-classic/#1
  2. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/PHS/PHS.asp?id=28&tid=4

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