Asbestos in Fake Snow Exposure and Risks

Summary

Asbestos was used for a variety of purposes before researchers exposed it as a carcinogen. For decades, it was marketed under several brand names for use as white, fluffy fake snow—putting thousands of children, families and employees at risk of mesothelioma.

It’s widely known that asbestos lurked within working environments in mines, shipyards and military equipment, causing thousands of workers to become ill years after employment. But some forms of asbestos existed—and sometimes even “fell” from the sky—right in plain sight.

Asbestos in Fake Snow Explained

Those who remember the famous poppy field scene in the 1939 MGM film, The Wizard of Oz, in which Dorothy fell asleep may be surprised to find out that the “snow” used in those camera shots was made from 100% industrial-grade chrysotile asbestos.

As it turns out, asbestos use in this timeless film doesn’t end at the classic snowfall scene. In fact, the Wicked Witch’s broom was also made from asbestos, in addition to the Scarecrow’s outfit—putting some of America’s most beloved actors at risk for severe asbestos-related illness.

MJN Brief

Prior to the 1920s, film industry professionals used cotton batting to replicate snow. That was until a firefighter on set pointed out the fire hazards of cotton and unknowingly suggested a much more lethal substance—asbestos.

The white, fluffy and fire-resistant fibers were the perfect way to simulate real snow on Hollywood film sets while decreasing fire hazards. Many actors and television personalities including CBS Actor Ed Lauter and stuntman Steve McQueen died of mesothelioma after asbestos exposure on production sets.

Asbestos in fake snow wasn’t exclusive to Hollywood. Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s, artificial snow made from asbestos was marketed under several brand names, some of the more popular ones including:

  • White Magic
  • Pure White
  • Snow Drift

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Who Was Exposed to Asbestos in Fake Snow?

In addition to being used on film sets, asbestos in fake snow also made its way into homes. Made of chrysotile, or “white” asbestos, the toxic fibers closely resembled white, fluffy snow and were appropriately used for decorative purposes throughout the holiday season.

Below are the groups of people who were potentially exposed to asbestos in fake snow.

Families

In hundreds of households, this form of asbestos could be found sprinkled in trees, wreaths and ornaments, unknowingly putting every household member at risk for serious illness. Mothers fumbled with the material while creating Christmas displays and, unfortunately, children tampered with the fibers as they closely resembled real snow.

Members of households that used asbestos-based fake snow are at risk of developing an asbestos-related illness. Family members who inherited antique holiday decorations could also be at risk, as trace amounts of asbestos could still lurk within family heirlooms.

Product Handlers

Product handlers who worked at the manufacturing facilities that produced these artificial snow brands were frequently exposed. Additionally, department store workers who helped create asbestos-based holiday exhibits or frequently handled the products are at risk.

Actors, Performers and Film Crews

Anyone who was involved in theatrical performances where asbestos-based fake snow was used on stages or film production sets is also at risk. In these environments, asbestos could have been used to replicate snow falling from the sky, or as fire-resistant material for stunt suits, costumes, props or stage equipment.

Environments where fake snow asbestos was used include:

  • Live theater performances where asbestos was used to resemble snow
  • Department store holiday exhibits
  • Households in which families used asbestos-based artificial snow to decorate trees, ornaments, wreaths, etc.
  • Manufacturing facilities where asbestos-based fake snow was produced

Health Risks of Asbestos in Fake Snow

Fortunately, fake snow has come a long way since the 1930s. The use of asbestos-based fake snow slowed significantly with the onset of World War ll when tons of asbestos was needed for insulation on ships, planes and other military equipment.

Additionally, once lawmakers finally set some ground rules for eliminating the use of the lethal fibers in the 1970s, the manufacturing of asbestos-based fake snow ceased.

MJN Brief

Scientists have since created much more elaborate ways to simulate the white, fluffy substance for use in films, live acts and holiday decorations. Thankfully, “chemical snow” or actual snow is used for Christmas movies as a replacement for one of the most toxic natural substances known to humankind.

If you have decorations that have been passed down to you from family members, carefully assess their safety. If you see fake snow, experts suggest disposing of the items and replacing them with new decorations. If you suspect asbestos-laced decorations, contact your local authorities to find out the safest way to dispose of asbestos.

If you were exposed to asbestos and have developed any of the following mesothelioma symptoms, please seek the advice of a doctor:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the chest or ribs
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Bloating or nausea
  • A persistent cough

Access Asbestos Trust Funds

Compensation for treatment, loss of income and other damages is available through Asbestos Trust Funds. Workers with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses may qualify.

Find Out If You Qualify

Seeking Justice for Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos in fake snow put thousands of innocent professionals, parents and children at risk of developing mesothelioma. Anyone who has developed mesothelioma as a result of their exposure to asbestos in fake snow may be awarded legal compensation to help cover treatment costs and other damages.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and suspect it may have been due to your exposure to asbestos in fake snow, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Contact the Justice Support team today by calling us at (888) 360-4215. Or request our FREE Mesothelioma Justice Guide to understand your next steps as a mesothelioma victim.

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Sources
  1. Snopes.com, “Was Fake Snow Made From Asbestos Marketed As Christmas Decor?” Retrieved from https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/was-fake-snow-made-from-asbestos-marketed-as-christmas-decor/ Accessed on 11 June 2018
  2. Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet, “Asbestos: It isn’t snow.” Retrieved from https://tedium.co/2016/07/28/asbestos-danger-risk-litigation-history/  Accessed on 11 June 2018
  3. Mirror.co.uk, “Do your Christmas decorations contain ASBESTOS? Warning issued about fake snow in vintage baubles” Retrieved from https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/your-christmas-decorations-contain-asbestos-4828993 Accessed on 12 June 2018

Last modified: June 28, 2018