The introduction of the crock-pot back in 1971 revolutionized the way American families brought their meals to the table. But crock-pots were one more must-have consumer product that brought asbestos into the home. In 1970, Rival Industries, a leader in convenience appliances, acquired the rights to the Beanery, an electric slow cooking bean-pot. This cooker, a self-contained device for cooking beans, was soon re-imagined and repackaged as the crock-pot and introduced to the marketplace a year later. It was an instant success, and within its first two years found its way into almost five-million homes.
As with many consumer products of the time, the crock-pot used the fire-retardant fibers of asbestos for both heat and electrical insulation, a necessary safety precaution due to the elevated temperature of the device and its wiring. It was most often found between the inner and outer layers of the cooker to prevent heat loss, but it was also wrapped around the wires within the cord. The presence of asbestos in these cookers may pose a lingering health hazard to the consumer if they are disassembled for maintenance purposes or if their wiring becomes frayed or damaged. Once these fibers are released into a household, they may remain in this environment for long periods of time, constantly being stirred up into the air and exposing individuals to asbestos. Unlike most modern workplaces, the average home is not equipped with control systems and protective agents for asbestos, making it difficult to fully rid a household of these fibers.
In 1979, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) opened an investigation that would lead to the discontinued use of asbestos in various home appliances and other consumer products. Though crock-pots produced since don’t contain asbestos, there are many old slow cookers out there that still present a health risk to both their owners and small appliance repairmen. Old crock-pots should not be repaired when they are damaged or broken. Even short-term exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a fairly aggressive form of cancer that affects the thin lining surrounding the lungs, abdomen or heart.
While the CPSC was decisive in stopping the use of asbestos in many home-related appliances, these cancer causing fibers are still utilized to this day and virtually none of the products containing them are labeled, making it almost impossible for consumers to avoid asbestos. As of 2001, seven-percent of all asbestos used in the United States was classified as “other.”