Asbestos mittens are protective gloves or mitts that are used to insulate the hands from extremely high temperatures. Certain occupations, such as those in glass manufacturing, research and welding regularly use asbestos mittens. These gloves can be more than just heat resistant. They can also slash and tear resistant.
Asbestos-containing products (over 3,000 of them including mittens) were commonly used from the early 1900s until the 1980s. However, in recent years the use of such products has become suspect due to the health risks now associated with asbestos. Those who formerly used asbestos mittens must now consider the potential health risks and move to alternatives in the hopes of avoiding continued exposure.
Typically, asbestos mittens were made from chrysotile asbestos, the most common type used within United States industrial applications. It originates in Canada, though there are also sources of it in the United States and Europe . It has been debated whether this type of asbestos has the same serious health consequences as other forms like amosite (from South Africa) and riebeckite asbestos. Ultimately, all asbestos fibers are dangerous.
Asbestos is known to be responsible for a variety of serious and sometimes fatal illnesses. For example, it can cause a cancer that affects the mesothelium called mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis, a deadly illness marked by inflammation and scarring of the lungs’ parenchymal tissue. These conditions are usually the result of extended exposure to asbestos. However, it is wise to seek medical evaluation following any level of exposure. Additionally, it’s important to note that asbestos can lead to some illnesses that are not cancerous but still deadly.
Asbestos is dangerous when its fibers are inhaled. As such, asbestos mittens are typically at their most dangerous when they are old, torn and worn. Asbestos fibers are extremely lightweight, which means they can become airborne with ease. Since this carcinogen is so easily spread through the air, it most frequently causes respiratory diseases.
Though rare, it is possible to contract asbestos related conditions that develop in the abdomen or heart. For example, mesothelioma can originate in the abdomen. Usually, this occurs when a person ingests the carcinogenic fibers. Ingestion generally occurs from swallowing the airborne fibers or swallowing fibers from contaminated food.
For the wearers of asbestos mittens, the risk didn’t end once the gloves were removed for the day and hands were washed. Since the fine asbestos particles became airborne so easily, they often clung to the worker’s hair and clothing once he/she left work, leading not only to he/she’s extended exposure, but also to the unwitting exposure of loved ones.