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Back in the days when artificial snow sprays were not yet a trend, several Hollywood filmmakers made use of asbestos, a heat-resistant fibrous mineral, to create splendid snow effects producers had always aimed to showcase in their films.

Asbestos snow had given the audience (most especially the younger ones) much amazement and awe in those early days of movie magic. This was actually the main reason why film producers and directors had come up with fake snow; it enabled them to provide the illusion needed to attract a great number of movie viewers.

Unknown to these filmmakers, however, was the hard reality that asbestos yields ill effects to one’s health. Here’s how asbestos was used in many Hollywood films of yesterday – and why this hazardous choice turned out to be far from magical.

White Asbestos As Fake Snow

In the early 1920s, filmmakers had used cotton batting to create artificial snow on set. However, in 1928, a firefighter asserted that such practice posed fire hazards and that chrysotile, popularly known as white asbestos, would provide a “safer” substitute for cotton.

As this idea was enthusiastically embraced by Hollywood, asbestos was then used as fake snow in several classic films. Wizard of Oz, Holiday Inn, White Christmas, and Le Mans are just a few of these films that made use of white asbestos on set.

Unfortunately, what was thought to be a blessing had turned out to be an invisible curse. Little did filmmakers know that the chrysotile snow sprinkled on set was actually very lethal. Several medical studies later found that when inhaled or ingested, asbestos can cause at least 9 serious diseases which may eventually lead to death

Asbestos In Set Decorations

According to Life Magazine’s writer Helen Robinson, foamite was invented to produce artificial snow for the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life; however, asbestos was still used to adorn some parts of the set. Two decades later, it was still being used within piping and special effect beams on the 1964 Goldfinger movie, as well as other Bond films of the era.

Producers of such films could have not known that while asbestos was utilised only as a set decoration and not as artificial snow, it could still bring health hazards; when asbestos fibres are crumpled or formed into something, its dust particles go out into the open air and these can be trapped deep inside the lungs and other parts of the human body once inhaled. This might lead people to develop cancer and other lung-related diseases.

Asbestos In Stunt Gear

Due to its fireproof quality, asbestos was widely used in theatre shows and races from the 1960s-1980s. Flame-resistant suits, stunt gear, and fire curtains with asbestos content were widespread during those times, and a lot of celebrities were actually using them.

Due to a prolonged exposure to such material, a couple of these celebrities were diagnosed with mesothelioma -a rare and fatal form of cancer- and eventually died from it. One of these famous personalities was The King of Cool, Steve McQueen. He was exposed to asbestos during his several motorcycle stunts where he wore race gear made of asbestos, and during his time in the U.S Marine Corps.

In light of the things discussed above, it is necessary for everyone to get rid of asbestos for optimum health and safety. It may seem surprising now, but asbestos wasn’t only used in theatres and racing suits;it was also used in some toothpastes, hair dryers, and roof and floor tiles, to name a few household items. Given that, it’s important to know who and where to consult whenever you suspect any hint of asbestos presence in your home or facility.

How to Get Rid of Asbestos

Since asbestos fibres are not visible to the naked eye, you may not know if your older facilities might have an asbestos roof or asbestos insulation. Fortunately, the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) in Australia has organised a list of accredited asbestos testing agencies in the country to help people get rid of that deadly mineral.

The people behind these testing facilities are adept and professional in checking possible asbestos insulation in your building and you can also trust them in things like floor resistance testing, air monitoring, and the like.

If you suspect the presence of asbestos fibres in your building, never hesitate to consult a NATA-accredited asbestos testing facility. Your health and safety should be a top priority.