Unexpected Places Where You May Find Asbestos

Asbestos remains a very deadly threat to the world with an average of 5,000 workers dying each year from asbestos related illnesses such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. With its prevalent use in construction work and other industries before 1999, the chances of finding asbestos in unusual places is surprisingly high. Before the dangers of asbestos fibres was proved to the world, many mundane household items were using asbestos as part of their manufacturing process.

Here at SSD Online Asbestos, we have compiled a list of the most unexpected places where you may find asbestos, as a way of reminding how vigilant we have to be to avoid inhaling its dangerous fibres.


1. Books

Reading is probably one of the most low risk activities a person may partake in. However, did you know that books have been found to have been bound with asbestos? Some bookbinders in the mid 1900’s were exposed to asbestos because of this manufacturing process. Most famously, the first editions of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury were released with asbestos binding as it couldn’t be burnt, this ironically is something that  happened to all books in the novel. The gimmick may have been considered a nice touch at the time but anybody reading the book was seriously endangering their lives. Finding asbestos in mundane items such as a book is why asbestos awareness is absolutely crucial.


2. Toilet Seats

You might be surprised but even the trusty toilet seat has been found to contain asbestos. Early plastic composite toilet seats were made from a material known as bakelite which contained minimal asbestos fibres. The brittle fibres needed strengthening and asbestos helped with this. With such small quantities, the asbestos in these seats are considered generally safe and stable and are not a threat to anybody if you encounter one.


3. Crayons

In 2015, Disney and Nickelodeon branded kids crayons were found to contain traces of asbestos. This was big news due to the possible dangers that it placed children to the possible exposure of asbestos. The crayons were manufactured in China, a country that still mines asbestos. The crayons were ultimately recalled and disposed of professionally.


4. Artex Ceilings

Fans of 1970’s decor will remember the iconic swirls, spikes and patterns of Artex ceilings. Despite falling out of fashion in the 1980’s, builds as late as the 1990’s still used these ceilings. Artex is dangerous because it has a coating of Chrysotile, the white asbestos. Because of its popularity, these ceilings represent an incredible risk. For this reason, Artex is now removed from houses containing it. Some will try DIY approaches to remove the dangerous fibres but this is a huge risk to the individual and is not recommended. Steaming Artex ceilings removes it safely but it is recommended that you hire a qualified assessor to check it. The assessor will remove it themselves if they feel it is needed.


5. Ironing Boards

Because of asbestos’ fire resistant properties, it will come as no surprise that ironing board manufacturers used the fibres in production. Until the 1980’s, the place where you put the iron at the head of the board included asbestos. Although inert, pads could chip and break over time. Even Ironing board covers were sometimes lined with asbestos that could fray which in turn lead to fibres being released more easily.


6. Bowling Balls

During the 1960’s and 1970’s, many bowling balls contained asbestos. It was used as a filler for the ball to increase strength and impact resistance, decrease possible shrinkage and reduce overall costs. Because of this use, people involved in the manufacturing of bowling balls were at severe risk of exposure to asbestos fibres. Workers in shops selling the bowling balls were also at risk as it was their responsibility to drill the holes into the balls. Despite thorough cleaning after drilling, there is no guarantee that the fibres released would not find their way onto the fingers of the bowler.


7. Extreme Sports

Extreme sports are popular in the 21st century as more and more people seek new adrenalin fuelled adventures. As motocross and quad biking are two of the most accessible off-road sports, the possible exposure to asbestos particles is something that needs to be made aware of. The swirling dust created as the vehicles tear up fields and farmland can be extremely hazardous. The chance of inhaling dust containing asbestos is entirely possible. A lungful of asbestos fibres can cause significant long-term damage for riders and spectators so this danger should not be ignored.


8. Christmas Decorations

Christmas is a time for family, exchanging gifts and great food. For long periods, candles were a common fixture on the Christmas trees. Because of this fire resistant decorative snow was needed. White asbestos had a fluffy texture which is why it was used as fake snow. This popular product was deadly for consumers who did not know the risks of exposure to the fibres. Even early Christmas films used it under those hot stage lights. Whatever its use at Christmas was, the snow may have been fake but it contained a very real danger.


9. Toothpaste

Asbestos found its way into plenty of hygiene and medical solutions. There was a brief time when fibres were used as a surgical thread. The use of asbestos in toothpaste wasn’t something that was widespread but the popular Ipana brand included it in their product. Asbestos fibres are an abrasive, so it likely did help clean teeth more effectively. Was it worth it for ingesting fibres? It really wasn’t.


10. Vintage Items

Owning vintage items is a popular thing these days. Today, people enjoy exploring charity shops and second hand stores for the items of yesteryear. As Asbestos was considered a miracle product, its use spread in the production of many items. Along with the items on this list, asbestos was was used in hairdryers, heaters, irons and toasters between the 1950’s and 1970’s. All vintage items should be handled with care because of the danger to exposure. You must contact an expert if you think an item contains asbestos.

This list proves that we must remain extra vigilant when it comes to discovering asbestos. The dangers of inhaling fibres remain very real. Make sure you read our Asbestos FAQ’s for more information on this dangerous substance.

By taking an asbestos course online, we can all have the knowledge required when encountering asbestos. SSD Online Asbestos awareness courses approved by IATP, RoSPA and UKATA are available today. Contact us for more information.