Last Updated on 22nd September 2020 by Kirsty Smithson
By now, most of us will know about the dangers of asbestos and there being a high chance of it existing in older buildings, especially in ceiling materials and floor tiles, but what you may not realise is that many household products that you thought were safe could still contain asbestos.
In this article, we highlight 9 everyday products that could still be in use that you didn’t realise contain asbestos.
It’s terrifying to know that asbestos may be contained within a seemingly harmless item in your home and could pose a risk to you, your children or loved ones, putting you all at risk for mesothelioma, a deadly asbestos-related cancer.
The World Health Organization estimates 107,000 workers around the world will die every year of an asbestos-related disease, equaling 300 deaths per day.
That’s why it is crucial to raise awareness and educate people on the dangers of asbestos and the related diseases.
Very few people realise just how common the use of asbestos once was, despite the wide media coverage over recent years.
Asbestos was once found in several everyday household items and products due to it’s low cost and widespread availability.
Asbestos has been banned in many countries across the world and asbestos awareness organisations keep a close eye on the manufacturing processes of many companies across the world, making sure that the deadly asbestos material is not still being used.
Here are 9 common household products you didn’t realise either used to or could still contain asbestos:-
One of the most disturbing findings of all is that asbestos has been found in children’s toys.
It is well known that children are at a higher risk once asbestos fibers have entered the body, so it has always been a major concern when it comes to children’s toys.
Babies and children that are exposed to asbestos fibers have been shown to develop related diseases quite early in life, often before they reach the age of 20.
Asbestos has been detected in three major brands of crayons including Crayola.
Independent tests were carried out and asbestos fibers were found in four of the 28 boxes of crayons that were tested.
The asbestos was used as a binding agent in the manufacture of crayons in the form of talc.
There were only very small amounts used, but the brands and manufacturers using this method were instructed to find a substitute for the harmful mineral.
Asbestos fibers were also found in 2 of the 21 tested CSI crime-scene fingerprint kits that are made by Plant Toys.
It’s the third time in the past 15 years that asbestos fibers have been discovered in licensed children’s products.
As a result of these findings and asbestos awareness campaigners, the likes of sellers Toys ‘R’ Us and Amazon.com have ceased to stock and sell these contaminated children’s toys in order to put safety first.
So this serves as a stark reminder to parents and carers that asbestos may be lurking where you didn’t expect to find it – in your child’s toys.
Crayons aren’t the only children’s toy guilty of containing dangerous asbestos fibers as recent tests have discovered asbestos in modelling clay products.
Environmental Working Group tests found that certain brands were shown to contain traces of asbestos.
If asbestos is left alone and undisturbed then it does not carry the same potential dangers as asbestos that is disturbed and becomes airbourne, however, it becomes a problem when children put toys such as clay or crayons into their mouths.
Asbestos that is ingested can greatly increase the risk of developing peritoneal mesothelioma which is a condition that occurs in the lining of the abdomen.
As mesothelioma can lay dormant in the body for many years before displaying any symptoms, children that may be exposed to asbestos from modeling clay may not see mesothelioma symptoms for anywhere between 20 to 50 years.
You may be surprised to learn that your favourite novel could contain asbestos!
Two popular science fiction first editions were found to be bound in asbestos material.
One of the said books, “Fahrenheit 451”, was bound with asbestos in the past in hopes that the book would never be burned.
This is infact not the first time that book bindings have been found to contain asbestos material.
Reports show that bookbinders were exposed to asbestos as far back as the mid-1900s.
So many early book editions that were bound in this period could contain asbestos in the binding.
Most people will not realise that asbestos could be in the bowling balls used at their local bowling alley.
Bowling balls used to be made using fibreglass and asbestos.
Bowling equipment shop owners faced a high risk of developing mesothelioma as they would often inhale the deadly asbestos fibers when drilling holes into the balls.
So people using the bowling balls at the bowling alley were also at great risk as there was no guarantee that asbestos fibers wouldn’t be released into the atmosphere or even the user’s fingers during use.
The danger is also that the bowling balls can last for many, many years.
Even though most modern bowling balls are not made with asbestos, some older style balls may still contain asbestos fillings.
Talcum powder is a commonly used product used in households around the world.
The soft mineral has many uses and comes in many forms. being widely used in many products, including cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, ceramics and chalk.
And although it seems perfectly harmless, the substance is raising growing concern due to a dangerous risk of asbestos exposure.
The reason for this growing concern is that talc and asbestos are naturally so close to one another on the earth’s surface, meaning that contamination in talc products can occur as a consequence.
The subject raises huge debate amongst researchers, but it is still considered by many that the use of talcum powder may lead to mesothelioma and other related diseases such as lung cancer and ovarian cancer in women.
Asbestos was contained in most hand-held hairdryers up until 1980.
Although they will now be very rare, these hair dryers are extremely dangerous to use as they blow asbestos directly into the user’s airways which they will breathe in.
Hairdressers used to work with products and equipment on a daily basis that contained toxic levels of asbestos, such as hand-held dryers and hood-style hairdryers.
But it’s not just hairdressers that were exposed as many people had these items in their homes or they were used in hotels.
Estimated figures reveal that a total of up to five million asbestos-containing hand-held dryers were in circulation at one particular time.
The hairdryers were made by several different brands which included the likes of Remington who were the market leaders with a 90% share of all annual domestic hairdryer sales.
These brands were forced to discontinue manufacture of all asbestos-insulated drying products as a result of an inquiry back in 1979 by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
They discovered that hairdryers from 11 leading brands contained dangerous levels of asbestos.
Asbestos was also found in a range of vintage irons that were manufactured in the early 1900’s.
The asbestos mineral was used under the handles of the irons.
Chrysotile asbestos was also used to make iron rests.
The companies that used to make these products containing asbestos have long since disappeared, but these vintage irons could still exist in antique shops etc.
Toasters manufactured in the 1950s, 60s and 70s were riddled with asbestos, which was used to provide heat insulation as well as providing electrical insulation around the cord of the toaster.
Closer inspection on some of these old fashioned toaster products revealed a variety of asbestos insulation panels attached to heating elements.
So be careful when admiring a retro style toaster in your local antiques shop or if you’re an antiques dealer and come across one.
It may look trendy and tempting to buy, but could potentially be a death trap!
Asbestos, by its very nature, is incredibly heat resistant.
Therefore, asbestos materials can be found in older style domestic heater products as it was used to form internal insulation.
Although all heaters manufactured after 1974 have been asbestos free, as laws were passed to ban the use of asbestos in manufacturing of products.
Older style homes may, however, still contain these heating appliances which could contain asbestos, so caution is advised and swift replacement of these old heaters.
Please see our article on old storage heaters that could contain asbestos to help identify the model numbers to look out for.
Duty holders and employers have a legal responsibility to manage asbestos in their building so as not to put employees at risk. Contact our Armco office for asbestos management and refurbishment/ demolition surveys on 0161 763 3727 or by visiting https://www.armco.org.uk/.
Alternatively call 0161 761 4424 or visit https://www.armcoasbestostraining.co.uk/ for enquiries or to book a training course.
Published Aug 11, 2020