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Historical uses for asbestos that you may find surprising

When you think of Asbestos you most likely think of building materials and construction but for thousands of years this versatile but deadly material has been used for a variety of things, some of which you may find surprising.


The Greeks combed Asbestos fibres and spun them to make into towels and cloths. They were well aware of the fire resistant properties as the fabric could be thrown into the fire to be cleansed without damaging it. The Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne also reportedly had a tablecloth made of Asbestos fibers which he would pull out of a fire unsinged, leading some people to believe he had supernatural powers.


During the 1950’s, the Asbestos industry was in its golden years and clever inventors were trying to think of new ways to use it. One company called Bristol-Meyers had a brand of toothpaste that contained Asbestos fibers which acted as an abrasive to polish and whiten teeth.

Fake Snow

During the 30s and up until the late 50s, Asbestos fake snow was used widely to turn anyones shop window or living room into a winter wonderland. At the time, it was seen as a realistic looking alternative that wouldn’t melt and posed no fire hazards. It was also used extensively by the film industry and can be most famously seen in The Wizard of Oz.


In the 1950s it was suspected that cigarettes weren’t particularly healthy so tobacco companies were trying to find ways to make them safer. A company called Lorillard started using asbestos in their filters and marketed it as “the greatest health protection in cigarette history”. Unfortunately 11.7 billion of these asbestos cigarettes were sold, and Lorillard had to pay out millions in compensation to the resulting mesothelioma sufferers.


This is not really a direct use for asbestos, but an accidental contaminant. A substance called talc is used in a lot of make-up that sometimes becomes contaminated with asbestos when it is mined. Manufactures within the EU have to ensure their talc is free from asbestos, but not all make-up is produced within the EU and inspections have found talc within the UK contaminated.

We hope you have found this blog interesting, and if you need any advice on suspected asbestos in commercial or domestic properties, please don’t hesitate to call us on 0333 772 0424.

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